Visit 16: 3 - 6 August 2007
At last the summer has arrived and it's a beautiful day! We leave for Dorset around 5pm, after Ashley has loaded the van for us. On Sunday, our friends at the stables are holding a memorial fun day in memory of Margaret Newell, their founder as well as the organiser of the Holton Lee horse shows. There will be no horse show this year, for obvious reasons, but instead all of the volunteers, carriage drivers and riders associated with the stables will hold their own competitions. After this they will scatter Margaret's ashes at the bird hide, where she kept the feeders filled each day.
Genie and I will be running a 'Guess the Weight of the Westie' competition to raise funds for the stables, more in the school of performance art, admittedly, than of traditional fundraising techniques. Genie is in a deep sulk, since Julie took her to the vet's this morning in order to have her weighed - Genie is vet-phobic, and somewhat of a drama queen, so Julie came back highly embarrassed because the owners of genuninely sick pets thought Genie must be in the middle of a course of painful treatment, she made so much fuss. Genie's mood is not improved when I stop at the services to buy a toy westie and a toy pony for prizes; she is a great collector of cuddly toys herself, but knows she is not allowed to touch other people's toys, let alone have them for herself.
When we arrive at the caravan, someone has started to cut the grass for us, but they have obviously been interrupted by rain as everywhere is soaking wet. Wally has charged the caravan's battery for us, and Ashley has left everything ready, so we are all set to be able to manage without a p.a. Unfortunately, though, when I go to get the scooter out of its hiding place I find myself unintentionally riding it into the wall, as it is too dark to see that the switch has been knocked on to top speed. Somewhat shocked, I ride down to the artists' common room, sit with my leg under the outdoor tap and let the water run over it. All there is to sit on is the tree stump that we use as a door prop in the day time - I don't even care that there are insects running out from under it. I do, though, muse that the studios look good in the moonlight, and that all an artist's needs are catered for here! When I get back to the caravan, I am still very sore and upset, so Julie makes me hot chocolate laced with brandy and I go to bed after anointing myself with arnica cream. Since Julie still has a cracked bone in her finger from shutting it in the van door last week, I decide that we must bring a p.a. down again with us next time, as we have had no success in recruiting locally.
We have a particularly peaceful night's sleep because Genie is still sulking, and so has decided, for the first time ever here, to stay in her basket on the floor all night. When we wake up, the birds are calling, the sun is shining, and I have cheered up again. I decide to take advantage of Julie's sympathy over my accident to persuade her to model for me in the woods later. Over the past month my ideas for the work that I will show at the end of the residency have crystallised, and I have decided to combine some ideas that I have been developing for some time to produce this particular image. Genie continues to ignore Julie pointedly for another two hours before giving in and becoming best friends again.
Mid-morning, Julie goes into Wareham to buy the rest of the prizes for 'Guess the Weight of the Westie', while I clean the scooter up ready for tomorrow. Between my hand braces, my injured leg, and the fact that the scooter was the cause of the injury, I am not in the ideal mood to polish it lovingly, and wish I had remembered to ask Ashley to do it last weekend. As the scooter has never been cleaned since I bought it in May - due to the fact that it has rained continually since then - it does need it, though. I am glad that I was able to buy specialist products at the VW show here in June; it also reminds me of the three VW Beetles I have co-owned in the past. When I admire the 'Girl Racer' and 'Hot Wheels' stickers on it that I also bought at the show, I reflect that, along with the 'smart water' it is marked with, it is not exactly anonymous if a thief got their hands on it!
After this I sit in the orchard and write up my residency notes - I had intended to spend the day sketching, but now need to keep my leg up as much as possible to stop my foot swelling, as my bones are quite fragile and I have had a fracture before from the pressure of fluid building up in my foot. It is quite idyllic in the sunshine, with a bright blue sky, butterflies pottering about, small red apples on the trees, yellow evening primroses growing amongst the grass, and a wall of sweet peas that Derek has trained up the fence between the orchard and his garden - and with my bright orange 'jelly' sunlounger, it is a riot of primary colours too. Later Julie returns with the shopping, and Derek, who is at work despite it being Saturday, brings his sandwiches into the orchard and joins us for lunch. Over coffee, it is good to catch up - with the constant downpours, no one has had time to sit or stand around and talk this summer.
Genie and I go into the woods to find a site where Julie will model later, and I also pick up flints to take back for possible use in some (art) work later. Then we return and I sit in the sun again and read some background material for the performance piece that I am working on. Julie has also bought me a box of tofu icecreams back from the wholefood shop in Wareham (I am allergic to cows' dairy products), and it is a real treat to have an ice cream. When we go to the common room to use the toilet, we meet local artists Abby and Judith, who rent studio spacehere. The weather is far too good not to be working! Later, as I prepare my pink barbecue for use this evening, I recognise - as I did last weekend - that my entire caravan set-up is as camp as a whole row of tents. I realise that my self-image of me striding around in khaki is quite delusional, even if I am a former Queen's Guide and we are close to Brownsea Island, where the Scout and Guide movements began. (In fact, there was an international anniversary celebration there just last week.)
At sunset, Julie, Genie and I head for the woods. The shoot doesn't take long, and we used plenty of insect repellent first, but Julie still gets badly bitten. The fact that Genie and I did not really adds insult to injury - it is the first time that Julie has modelled for me, and my guess is that it may be the last time too. Julie retreats into the van, while I cook burgers for tonight, and then sausages for tomorrow, on the barbecue, watched closely by Genie. After supper I take a blanket out to the sunbed and lie stargazing by the embers of the barbecue, with Genie lying peacefully on my stomach. Light pollution from Bournemouth and Poole means that the Milky Way is not visible, but the stars are still the clearest that I have seen down here, while folk music drifts down from the camping field. Weather-wise at least, this is definitely the best evening of the year.
On Sunday I wake up at 7.30am, as I need to be on 'duty' by 10. It is another beautiful day, thank goodness. Genie submits to being brushed with good grace, and I fix my 'Guess the Weight of the Westie' notices to the front and back of the scooter and put the prizes in the basket on the back. First prize is a toy Westie and a tin train full of sweets (as the train line runs at the bottom of the site, this seems appropriate); second prize is a toy pony and a jar full of sweets; and the third and fourth prizes are small house-shaped tins of sweets. The sweets have been sold to Julie at cost price by Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe in Wareham, which has meant I could double the number of prizes given. This is really generous of them, and I vow to visit them in person soon - at which point it would be only polite to buy more at full price... I am wearing a t-shirt which I picked up at last year's Libertas book festival - on the front it says 'Aunt Em - hate you, hate Kansas, took the dog, Dorothy', along with an image of a pair of red glittery shoes.
Genie and I circulate gently around the fields being used for parking, the competition field, and the stable yard over the course of the morning, stopping frequently for water and shade (and occasionally popping into the caravan to get another tofu icecream out of the fridge). Unsurprisingly, people find it hard to resist us, and we receive a total of 62 entries. Genie eventually retreats to my foot plate, as she is getting rather fed up of being petted, as well as being poked to see how much fat there is on her, even though she bears it all stoically. Fortunately no one asks to pick her up, although I have her muzzle ready so I can meet all health and safety considerations in the event that someone insists! By the time that her weight is announced, at 1.30pm, Genie has made £45 for the stables; she has done really well, so it is only fitting that she dominates this blog entry. Sadly, though, she weighs 11.8 kilos - the breed standard is between 7 and 10!
First prize goes to Margaret's daughter, which is very fitting. Interestingly, only one person has over-estimated Genie's weight, while the guesses between 7 and 8 kilos filled up first. I spend some time wondering how Genie manages to convince everyone that she is a small dog - my weight sheets went up to 13kg, and even then I was worried they wouldn't go high enough. While I am counting the money, I get a message to say that I have won second prize in the raffle - I opt for the cuddly toy without seeing it, thinking that this will reward Genie. I then discover it is a polar bear that is bigger than Genie; this does help to make Genie appear smaller to me, but when I present her with it she backs away nervously and is clearly not going to adopt it...
We return to the orchard while Margaret's ashes are being scattered, as I am concerned that Genie has had as much sun as any dog ought to have in the course of a day. Julie, who is official photographer for the day, goes to the hide, though, and later says that it has been very moving. Once I revive, I leave Genie with Julie and go to make some work. I have started a series of hand prints in mud and sand, and I also take advantage of the continuing bright sunshine to take some self-portraits using the shadow cast by me across the mud by the reed beds. Later I take the third prize in the 'Guess the Weight of the Westie' competition up to the camping field, as one of the folk campers has won it - to my surprise, Genie demands that I turn the scooter speed up so that she can run. At least she's come to no harm, then... When we return, there is a beautiful sunset, but I am too tired to wait for the stars to come out.
It rains in the night, but is sunny again by the morning. Genie, who is never an early riser at the best of times, is reluctant to get up, so I leave her in her basket to rest. We are both very tired - while I am clearing up I bang my head on the caravan door, giving me another bruise to add to this week's collection, and I wish that Ashley was here. By the middle of the morning, though, I am cheerful again, and text Trish to see if she is free for coffee and a chat. Ten minutes later, Trish, Hayley and I are all installed in chairs by the caravan, and have a long and productive meeting in the sunshine. After lunch, we pack up to go home, but I manage to find time to go into the woods again briefly and look for more flints. I also meet the new 'personal growth and spirituality' worker, Brigid, in the garden, and she begins to outline her plans for future work involving art. Somehow, though, we manage to tear ourselves away by 4pm, since we know that otherwise we will be stuck in traffic coming back from the beach, and head somewhat reluctantly for East London.
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