A Musical Revelation
30 or so years later… Our cottage in a Sussex village.
It is late, wife and children have gone to bed. I am in a small galley kitchen clearing up after a splendid meal with some friends. Radio 3 is employed to keep me company. My toil with the dishcloth stopped abruptly as I was plunged into a manic scherzo, gloriously anarchic stuff. It stops, starts again, stops, repeats, does it all again. Mad but terrific music. Who on earth was this? The bell-like scherzo gave way to a sublime adagio, deeply felt, almost Schubertian in its profound sense of yearning. By now, dishes done, I was sitting on the floor, keeping company with the remains of a splendid 20 year old port.
As is often the way of the classical tradition, the fourth and final movement involves a triumphant resolution of many musical arguments. ‘Right, sweetie’, I thought, if you can extend, equal, or beat what came before, I have stumbled across a musical voice that is of the highest order. Why had I got to thirty something and never heard it? He delivered, my God, did he ever. By the time we got to the closing pages I resembled a quivering bundle that could have been the result of the contents of a boiled-over pot that had oozed to the floor. An emotional wreck, contemplating an experience that will live with me for the rest of my days, and , with any luck, beyond.
Same music, Radio 3, about 10 years later, this time on the car radio as I made my way to somewhere about 2 hours from home. After roughly about one and a half hours had elapsed, I was coming again on the closing pages of this sublime musical argument. At this point I became dimly aware of a flashing blue light in my rear view mirror. Oh God! What to do? I pulled over and indicated by a series of gestures that… ‘could the officer wait two minutes until my musical journeys end?’ I desperately hoped my finger gestures and facial expressions would not be misconstrued. Tricky. I guess the noise issuing from the car confirmed my request. Shortly after, I emerged from the car, red-eyed with tears and looking visibly shaken. The young officer, bless him, assumed my demeanour and apparent distress was caused by a traffic violation. He politely told me to get my brake light fixed ASAP.
I was born at a very early age…
The aged Dakota DC3 trundled towards a rather basic building at the Hobart airport. It’s piston engines set up a splendid racket and the heat haze smelt pretty good too. This was not wasted upon a wide-eyed 4 year old child bursting with excitement within the confines of the ranch style terminal.
A trip to Melbourne! This prospect opened the door to another world, a much bigger one. One with loads of trains and trams, big buildings, clouds of people and… some of the houses even had stained-glass windows… even the sky was a better shade of blue. But more than that, if this was one door, how many more were there in this world? The child flirted with this open ended concept. The other huge driver in his short life was his greatest wish that he could learn the skills in order to draw these aircraft. The magic was spun further with the plane ride. Who remembers the sloping aisle to the cockpit? You sat in chairs rather than seats. And those boiled sweets! The hostess gave loads to the kids. AND… being able to visit the cockpit and sit with the pilots as they left the Bass Strait and began their approaches to Melbourne. Magic. Try that now.
And yet, greater excitement awaited. His aunts serried ranks of multi-coloured biscuit barrels were stuffed with a cornucopia of goodies. Viewed from today’s healthy diet platform they would be biscotta non-grata. Never mind, the teddy bears, the stars of the show, were little treasures and will forever remain so. The trip from Tassie was a harbinger of things to come. Even at the ripe old age of four it was clear that there is another world outside this insular community.
I started life in a mill town, a good chunk of the economy was predicated on that paper producer. It also established a kind of local real estate hierarchy which mirrored that found in the mill. The town was bisected by a fast flowing river, good for swimming but could be dangerous. My mother did not know how close I came to never writing this stuff when I slipped off a greasy submerged plank. A flailing arm grabbed a mooring rope. The arrival home was tricky… how to get into some dry clothes and look relaxed and happy whilst re-living the suffocating horror of the water closing over my head. I attended a funeral service for a child at about that time. Maybe that WAS me and I have entered a parallel universe. I mentioned this concept to my cat Trevor but he looked at me as though I was a chop short of a barbie.
Someone told me I should write a blog, and I always do as I’m told [pause for laughter] or perhaps I got a ghost writer to do it all for me… who would ever know?!
Hmmm… anyway here we are at my first blog post, I’ll keep it fairly brief. Above here you see one of my most loved paintings, Giverney which will be out on show at my studio during the Glyndebourne Festival season – more on that next time. For those of you who don’t know, my main passion is abstract painting and colour, always colour. Whether it’s from an inkpot applied to paper, or from a bucket tipped onto canvas, there is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than colour.
La couleur est mon obsession quotidienne, ma joie et mon tourment – Claude Monet
Colour is my daylong obsession, joy and torment.
You can see more of my paintings on my website and also facebook and instagram. Yes I am a man of the 21st century!
But there are many more strings to my bow; does anyone remember The Lighthouse Keeper? Mr and Mrs Grinling and of course Hamish are now entertaining a new generation of children, and many people still tell us how much they loved these books when they were young.
I have also illustrated many other books, including the Kate Greenaway Award nominated Queen of the Night:
And most recently a self published book Winterreise, bringing to life the timeless song cycle for voice and piano, composed by Franz Schubert and including the poems of Wilhelm Muller.
But what there’s more? I hear you gasp! Well being a well traveled and well matured specimen I have many a tale to tell which you may find diverting; and being a Tasmanian by origin I do love a bit of banter over the cricket which you may find amusing or infuriating depending on your allegiance. I’ll try to be gentle on you.
That’s all for now. Make sure you come back again soon to see what I’ve been up to, or subscribe by email… someone’s got to keep an eye on me!