In which SJ is feeling under the weather.
It’s been a really cold winter and I’m not tip-top. I’ve had this year’s flu. The usual aches and pains came and went followed by the arrival of a lurid green chest infection. It robbed me of my usual enthusiasm for building a snowman or bracing walks on an ice-crunchy beach.
Nothing much is being achieved either creatively or practically. My house looks likes the council tip and although the snow has melted, I still cannot see my car for seagull splatterings. No matter how we think we can show a virus who is boss, it’s startling how easily the flu takes you down. I spent the best part of February smeared in Vicks Vaporub and eating truckloads of biscuits because in my desperation for energy, green vegetables became redundant and a sugar junkie is now what I am.
I felt ok for approximately 2 minutes and was about to return to my studio but in an almost seamless segue I now have pleurisy. This is a first for me and not a very pleasant one either. The level of pain in the lungs has been literally breath taking and I’m told it can last for weeks - very frustrating since the novelty of Lucozade and egg-in-a-cup has long since evaporated, leaving me half-crazed with cabin fever and moving as gracefully as the hunchback of Notredame.
Consequently, painting has been rather hitty-missy. I managed to create one piece at my kitchen table; an awkward working environment as anyone with 6 cats will tell you......
However, being forced to lie down on the sofa during the day does offer an opportunity for peaceful contemplation (as well as noticing how badly the living room ceiling needs painting) Then came the snow storms and a flapping bonkers pigeon trapped in the chimney. Avalanches of soot for three days did nothing for the lungs or the spirit. The bird was eventually freed by a chimney sweep with a child’s fishing net and an industrial hoover. The pigeon was last seen being transported away to be fed and rested in the vets aviary. Maybe I should have gone with him.
Weirdly, I've discovered that lying on the offending lung offers some relief. So, positioned strategically among the cushions, I’ve been reflecting on the the big stuff of life; love, sickness, loss and death. A number of friends and family have been going through the sort of poor health that knocks pleurisy into a cocked hat. The worry gives rise to all manner of ‘what if’s'. What IF tomorrow, someone we care for is no longer there? Are we appreciating them enough today?
Dr Szikora's prescription for illness or unhappiness is a ready set of ears, tea (gin) and sympathy (really massive cake) and show them we give a damn. This may not fix everything or even anything but it is the time spent that will help. Trust me.
I've been touched by the thoughtfulness shown to me. I especially enjoyed the little ceramic goat who arrived in the post, the burst of multi-coloured tulips and the welcome ’medicinal’ plonk.
In some ways sickness, like all other human experience, is useful to me as an artist; woe, the same way as joy feeds into my work. Mostly what I do comes from a need to understand life better; trying to catch an idea and examine it before it flutters away. Working in the arts is a privilege and never more so than when you are excused a degree of introspection. It is my way of existing in the world. I will always flounder in debates because I can’t recall facts easily; I'll always think of something better to say as I'm walking away and I'll always get tongue tied in certain company. These are just some of the reasons why I prefer visual communication: I get time to think. There is a flood of relief from downloading an idea or a feeling onto canvas and ultimately that someone else might connect with it. At the end of the phsyical process, I clean my brushes, sweep the studio and, for a moment, I have uncontaminated peace in my soul. I live for that.
Despite this wobbly first quarter, I’ve got an almost finished collection of new paintings. The setbacks mean I need to catch up, finish off the works, get the odd numbers even and by late(ish) June, I’ll have them on my studio walls. By then, even if Whitley Bay cannot quite deliver us a honeyed tan, at least we won't get frostbite.