On his way back home, so to speak, Mumbles came to an abrupt halt. ‘What the….’
He gazed at the far pavilions… or, more accurately, the chaste ivory- tinted beauty of a series of conical buildings. ‘Bastards!’ he hissed, ‘let’s hope they have a lovely time GLAMPING in their sylvan slums. ‘See if I care’. He did. But worse, by now he had lost his way. Not difficult with about 50 square hectares of tented terrain to navigate. Where was the bloody flag?
Calling Paul on the mob was the last card to play. This episode would go into buddy mythology and be wheeled out at every opportunity. NO, he will search. After passing the same fire hydrant 5 times he had to summon help. Pulled out mobile, and there, reflected in the screen in the distance was a tiny flash of canary yellow. Deo Gracias! It was a beautifully restored Lotus Elan with German plates. He had passed it on his way to seeing his Eastern European chums. A re- creation of his original position was required… a real test for his Malbec and Shiraz soaked neurones. A sigh of relief was matched by a lengthening stride.
Paul had his dinky little chef’s hat on when Mumbles arrived.
He was putting the fishing touches to some bacon baps which had been cooked on his small gas stove. Of course he had his microwave and his ‘CampAGA,’ but he liked to blend in with his fellow campers in the great outdoors. Things got a bit difficult when it came to hot drinks. ‘All the rooibos you can drink’ he announced cheerily. Mumbles eyes ablaze with apathy. One of the jewels of his liquid iconography was a 50cl mug of piping hot Ethiopian Arabica, just thin enough to drink but not thick enough to plough. Baps great.
After breakfast F1 practice beckoned. A huge column of humanity shuffled towards the entrance gates. Very young, young, middle, old, male, female, infirm.
A Petronas pilgrimage. Reminiscent of Lourdes or the Camino de Santiago.
Practising terrific. On the limit. An ear-splitting world. Pauls response was measured, expert. Mumbles embraced every bit of this alien culture, so wished his 10 year old grandson could have been with him. Stunning.
Meanwhile, still back at the theatre, painting scenery continued. By now I was familiar with the whole set-up . In a long narrow-ish studio, the huge back- cloths were attached to stout wooden stretchers. A gap between the floor and the wall, (together with the aid of an electric motor), meant they could be raised and lowered as and when. Painting the flats and other props was very straightforward.
If one imagines about 200 ice-cream cartons filled with every tint, tone and high colour imaginable, the whole approximating the range of a High street DIY paint retailer, then they were occupying a central table. They were maintained, in exemplary fashion by Steve, the splodger… hardly a flash job description. All water-based, of course. …the colours, not Steve.
Work proceeded well on the Viennese hell. Endless drop shadows, highlights, reflected lights, marbling, wood graining, cast shadows, all the usual old tricks of trompe l’oeil orthodoxy cascaded down. Rather similar to sucking boiled sweets.
BUT WAIT. I was admiring the job I had done on some alcove encased temptress and then became aware of a fellow admirer. A delicious exchange followed.
‘Look’, said our leader, ‘um…hmmmm…this is rather good….ummm ..’
He glanced at his watch…’could you do a few more?’ I glanced at his efforts. Rather me do them than him, I thought.
‘No problem , I said, you go and have a rinse or 3 with your mates and leave the alcoves and little darlings to me.’
Not a lot was said, but it was hugely significant.
Theatre mythology is also huge; Quasimodo, phantoms, ghosts, creaking woodwork, strange meanings, wobbly stairs, all of that.
I usually arrived first in the morning to get the studio opened up.
Up the creaking stairs. I grabbed the handle of the ancient door. Resistance. Push then came to shove.
The door opened a bit to reveal a pair of shoes stuck underneath.
Why the hell would somebody?….. A closer look. There were legs in those shoes.
According to the coroner, the death must have been agonising. Huddled in the foetal position, Steve had tried several exit stratagems, but lethal photographic chemicals had been most effective, at God knows what agony.
To complete the theatrical… because of rigor mortis and the narrowness of the stairwell, his body had to be put in a sling and lowered down on a rope.
One reflected upon previous conversations with Steve, but there was no indication of what he was thinking. More entry into the world.
The campground was bedecked with recognition flags, a sort of pre-dawn Agincourt.
Mumbles took careful note of the nearest markers as this trip was now attended by some urgency. After an eternity he spotted 2×200 metre queues in the distance.
‘Early birds for the racetrack’, he thought. Quick re-think. Why are they all carrying wash bags and towels? He pressed the distraction therapy button as he joined the queue.
The woman in front made Rubens’ females look anorexic. Boy, was she a bonny baby.
He gazed down at her equally huge washing-up bowl. Hmmm… muesli, porridge, full English, toast, muffins, marmalade, tea, coffee, milkshakes and loads more. Lucky them. They chatted.
During the course of this, Mumbles remembered that his dwelling was described as a two person tent. He fancy – flew again. What would happen if he and mega- cuddles got a bit pally and decided to have a coming together? His little tent would become a geodesic dome or a kind of vast jelly mould which bounced around quite a lot. Such was his amusement at this image he laughed out loud. ‘Sorry, hay fever’, he explained to his concerned new best friend.
What also hastened the departure of his amusement was the awareness of a look- alike Sumo wrestler beside him. Said wrestler’s tattoo display would rival that of any Maori chief.
His bling bracelets and bangles was topped off with a little diamond skull which held his pony tail in place. ‘Meet Crusher’, said cuddles, ‘a gentle giant’.
The amenities block turned out to be a model of efficiency. Staffed entirely by non- Brexit people , it was in a constant cleansing mode. Marshals directed traffic and wash- bag wounding non existent. Refreshed and relieved, Mumbles began the long journey home.
And then he heard it, them,….a load of 600 Hp engines splitting the morning air…
Mumbles head filled with keen anticipation… up to his point, a truly endangered species.
Time for some food! In one of his epistles to the Ecclestones, St Paul outlined the cosmopolitan nature of the Silverstone cuisine. It seemed to mirror exactly the range of food available in Collins Street, Melbourne. Alas, Dodge City would cover it. Still, the food was hot and, deepest joy, the beer was cold. Mumbles would have settled for a couple of glasses of sandwiches. Back now for a good night’s sleep.
Mumbles air bed was perhaps a tad over-inflated. Any sudden movement would result in the occupant being catapulted on to the floor. This was compounded by contour problems. The air bed ridging was identical to that of a frozen deeply ploughed field in February – and about as hard. If you got stuck in the ridges, move v e r y s l o w l y .
After a while and a fair bit of bruising, the mantle of sleep started to weave a magic…then…O MY GOD!! Please say it’s not happening to me!
It was four to the floor Migraine Music, conveyed through a Nuremberg sound system. Mumbles needed a fix. AAAAAGGGHH! It was in Paul’s microwave, drying off.
Music died at about midnight, but with sublime synchronisation it blended into a raging storm. Rain hurtled down. Tent kept dry…but!
Mumbles off into a fitful sleep. CRAMP! At 3 in the morning. Involuntary spasm. Catapulted to the floor. Hits the side of the tent. That’s when a tent sheds water…on the inside. It runs down your neck and back. Jump to the other side to avoid it and it runs down your front. ‘Why did I skip RE classes’? mused Mumbles.
Grey morning arrived at last. Mumbles final labour presents itself. How to get fully dressed in a sitting position without touching the top or sides of the tent.
Seventy something bones and muscles have serious articulation problems. Back howls in protest. Eventually emerges from his cozy chrysalis. Grabs his rain soaked towel and sets off to THE FACILITIES!
This post contains mature content in the form of life drawing and nudity.
Chapter 5: The Journey to Thinking Big
At the end of secondary school it was time to go back to Melbourne and stay with my Aunt. Why? It meant that I could study art at the grandly named Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. This activity was not so much a learning curve, rather more a vertical axis.
The tuition was very good, three years illustration was followed by 2 years painting. I was , and still am, deeply devoted to both. Customer satisfaction. Life drawing, a splendid discipline, was included in all of this.
In my final year I was employed as a lecturer to teach the first years and part-timers this noble art…. a valuable experience. The students did not seem to be troubled by the age of their tutor. His love of the subject seemed to preclude this. I got my diploma and learnt how to do many things.
THEN! Overtaken by events. A major theatre in the city had approached the college to see if they had a student who could paint theatre scenery. I could imagine how the conversation went… ‘We need somebody who can draw and represent the physical world…for God’s sake don’t send us some abstract expressionist or cubist clown or a mystic Meg. We want technical skill. Give him, or her, anything, and they can do it. They will have to work on a huge scale. More than that, they will have to produce results before the pubs open’!
I got the nod. My meeting with the head honcho was salutary. He was short, golden bristled in a Scottish sort of way, and had the eye colouring of a Norwegian fjord.
He gave me a ‘O God, here’s another one’ sort of look and then pronounced in a voice flat with indifference, ‘Look,sunshine, if you can’t do this, I will bloody soon find somebody who can. I can’t frig around, let’s go’. I have heard similar sentiments expressed many times over the years. You either drop your bundle or it puts iron in the soul. As if to under- score this, he produced a cartoon ( in the original sense, a preparatory study). This was about A2 landscape in format and had to be scaled up to a massive 10×5 metre back cloth. Suddenly, a jaw dropping moment.
Our leader folded the cartoon twice, and tore it from top to bottom in order to make 3 identical panels. He took one, his long time assistant another, and he gave the third to me.
‘OK,’ he commanded, gesturing at the prepared canvas, ‘you guys start at either end, I’ll do the middle. Don’t screw it up’
I am as dry as a dead dingo’s….. ‘You have an hour to get the first stage knocked in’.
I looked at the cartoon. It was a kind of Baroque hell. Greek columns, acanthus leaves, Brunelleschian architecture, figures in alcoves, tracery, decorative stone and woodwork, and on and on. It was to accompany a Strauss type Viennese Operetta. I am sure the blue Danube must appear sooner or later. That would be a doddle.
Enter the real world…
Two legacies of all this… 1. Only ever using thin paint as the cloths had to be rolled for transport; and 2. An undying love for working on a very big scale.
I am sure that the temptation to overload an ad goes back to biblical times…
Hullo Design helper,
Picture the scene…Hot and biblical….Eve has just popped in to see the editor of The Garden of Eden Gazette. ‘Right! Ephraim’, she snapped,’ On my tiny ad. I want you to make the picture of the Apple tree bigger, AND, I want to put in a load more words and the serpent of course’…. the space allowed stays the same, so sort it for me’
‘Look, Sweetie, said Ephraim, stroking his great white beard, ‘I get this all the time’. The best I can do is meet you halfway. I so LOVE all your suggestions and when you see the next revise, you will see that I HAVE included a load of them. Not all, but that’s called ‘C’est la vie’ in Gaul. In Terra Australis they say ‘We ain’t playing for a bloody sheep station.’ Also, I have Griselda from Gethsemane Graphics on my ploughshare wanting to print the damn thing. Pronto. ‘AND! Just had a call on the ram’s horn from Adam and he would like a fig leaf border and a couple of your buy to let holiday cottages on the Tigris dropped in somewhere… No can do.
My man Paul from Tarsus is a whizz on this kind of kiddie… his patience is as long as my beard and, even as I write, he as a revised brief. As Soon as I get it I will forward it to you.
As Liebniz was heard to say ‘It will be the best of all possible worlds’ Of that I am certain.
Hullo, I think Griselda has just turned up with a cleft stick… O dear!!