Mumbles’ mojo seemed to be working. Weary after a day’s racing he contemplated a good nights sleep in his ‘got you figured out’ cocoon.
And thus it proved. Almost. About seven in the morning, still pretty dark in the tent, he decided to investigate some small object that had been digging into his back. What the hell was it?
Now a tentophile of considerable organisational skills, he reached for his specs that he had hung on a ceiling hook. He grabbed handfuls of air. Strange. So he looked again at the object. A LENS. Terrific. Where was the rest of his eye-wear? Under the air bed! They now looked like mangled costume jewellery or those evil wire sculptures one sees in open studio exhibitions. Couldn’t see a bloody thing without them. A job for Paul.
Paul had three great skills. He was deeply intuitive, did not stand on ceremony and was not patronising …usually.
‘Alright, what have you done now?’ (He could also be long suffering and non- judgmental at the same time.) He studied the evidence.
‘Did you leave these in the pit lane?’ Convulsed at his own wit, his shoulders shook.
He then glided to the boot of his car, snapped it open and produced on of those Mega telescopic tool boxes, about 2 metres high at full stretch. Socket spinners, ring spanners, adjustable….and on and on and on. With this kit he could do anything from changing a gearbox to a hysterectomy. Mumbles hovered. Paul decisive.
‘Look sweetie,’ said Paul, ‘why don’t you go and sit over there, put on your ‘howdy folks, I’m aimin to sing’ hat, get out your guitar and the rest of your microwave stash and stay really loose?’ That came to pass. Mumbles drifted Into his world, Paul stayed four square in his. Later…..
Mumbles hit the final chord on his Tassie Troubadour set and felt good. He then glanced down and saw his re-built specs. ‘No problem’, said Paul ‘thank God I had some 5 amp fuse wire.’ While I was about it, he went on, I changed the brake pads and a wheel bearing on our limo. A CVJ looked dodgy but will get us home. My welding kit is giving me grief’ Mumbles had no grasp of this language whatsoever.
‘Qualifying starts soon, let’s go.’ Said Paul. ‘Don’t forget your specs.’
Episode 8: Paul has a visitor.
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.
Evening meal and so to bed…
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!
The Journey to Silvers
Day dawns bright and clear. Car packed and ready. Sat nav set to Siverstone.
Paul and mumbles set off. Mumbles a bit weary and drifts off into a dreamy vision of their destination. Sort of gospel according to Saint Paul.
Images jostle for position …A bucolic scene of soft greens, a few tents under the spreading chestnut trees, Miss Marple chatting to Dixon of Dock Green outside Mrs Miggins tea rooms. A leafy Twitten winds around past the vicarage and leads to a wonderful vantage point affording a splendid view of the racetrack. Birdsong abounds. Sheep safely grazing.
Somewhere north of the M40/A279/ B something , Mumbles wakes up and glances out the window. ‘HOLY ****!!! Were their refugee camps in England? The sight that met his gaze would rival anything in Lebanon or Syria. Tents as far as the eye could see.
‘Glad we got here early’, said Paul, ‘the real influx will be tomorrow. ‘I think I can see a space a kilometre or so on the right.’ Mumbles blinking with incomprehension.
It started to rain. Mumbles needed a jab. Paul brisk, efficient.
‘Right, let’s get these tents up’, he commanded. In so doing, he produced his tent which was a combined ranch- style/ Winnebago hybrid. It was graced with Greek columns (Doric capitals) and Baroque acanthus leaves. Ample furnishings were installed inside.
Mumbles accommodation was the bog standard bottom end of the Halfords Glastonbury range. There was not a flicker of interest from a passing rabbit. In went the air bed and other sad, soggy possessions. Paul struggled with the standard lamp and the cinema sized TV. Rain hosed down.
‘What about the facilities’? Asked Mumbles. Paul rummaged in his wardrobe and produced a set of Jack Hawkins binoculars.
‘You will just be able to see them if you use these’, he said. Mumbles started to panic. ‘What happens if you have rebellious Indian curry for supper which has a 5 hour fuse?’
Paul’s answer was drowned in a ear spitting thunderclap. Torrential rain.
Episode 4 : evening meal and so to bed……
Good old mojo mumbles has left London Bridge and after a couple of belts of Jack Daniels sets off for Padders. Echoes of distant applause rings in his ears.
Tube train glides into Padders and keeps gliding. Helpful announcement says Padders is closed on this line so you can go to the next stop and walk back. Make that run in the sun,in this case. O joy! Loosely wrapped rucksack sheds bits. Dubious personal items litter the footpath.Dogs growl.
Arrive at platform 300 to just get on the Totnes train in the nick of. Thrown out of first class. At last ,dump sack in the right carriage. This triggers an astonishing train (!) of events. At the precise moment the bag hits the floor there is a piercing alarm siren, somewhere between an air raid warning and a car alarm. Fellow passengers nervous. Even more nervous when they notice that the front of mumbles jacket was rather lumpy AND his infrequent visits to the shower or bathroom gave him a middle eastern appearance. Fellow travellers eyes were almost as white as their knuckles.
What to do? Mumbles blocks the doorway. Worse , he starts rummaging in the sack to find the offending alarm clock.Garments were produced that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine since Woodstock. Underwear the worst culprit. 50 999 calls were made simultaneously. Mumbles shuts off the noisy alarm clock, takes his spare socks from inside his jacket, produces a copy of Good Housekeeping ,tunes his IPod into Woman’s Hour and settles down to read as a fully armed riot squad whacked the carriage next door. Nobody had seen him do a discreet re- direct as they approached.
Wonderful piece in Good Housekeeping on how to train (!) men to see the error of their ways, WITHOUT making lists!!! Great reading all the way to Totnes.Time for another rinse or three and a spliff. He needed that. His buddy Paul a teensy bit prim….never mind..
Episode 3. To come….Journey to Silvers….wait for it…
The big game of the day was marbles. About a 2 metre ring, inscribed in the grass or gravel was surrounded by players who simply had to knock the opponents marbles out of the circle with a well aimed shot. Every now and then bigger kids would appear with soft clay on their boots and proceed to walk through a well stocked ring. Bastards.
Never mind that. The joy of these things were the rainbow hued cats eyes red, green blue, and all the rest… Colour again. I would hold them up to the light and watch the colours refract and glow, sometimes one to each eye. I would miss my turn doing this.
At school I had a two-tier swivel pencil case, a ruler which doubled as a spirit level and a range of soft to hard pencils. They all had a wonderful smell, even the eraser.
All art paraphernalia had a heavenly scent (like that!) which remains with me to this day.
The walls of our house were bedecked, or spotted with the usual range of ‘furniture pictures’ a phenomenon which has remained largely unchanged in contemporary dwellings. It was mostly agreeable or anodyne stuff that contributed to domestic serenity but was wholly unconnected with the visceral power of painting. Pictures again. Bits of French confectionery (street scenes) rubbed shoulders with exotic scarf/earring portraits which exhibited a certain leaden charm. A blast of the chilly wind of C17 Dutch Protestantism made an appearance, so at least we had, in these cathedral prints, moved off the picturesque.
But, I wondered, as I gazed across the unique splendour of the Tasmanian landscape, why hasn’t somebody not done something with this? By that I meant not knocking out cosy European models, but establishing the spirit of the place in a new language.
The answer to that came many years later when I was a student in Melbourne.
His name was Fred Williams
, an uncharismatic moniker, but boy, did he do what I wished for. Stunning. Met him in the print studios at the college. Lovely man, an inspiration. Still.
© Estate of Fred Williams