Thursday, 7 July 2011

Day 14 - brandy and Special Brew

Egbert the St Lucian Rasta found a safari jacket yesterday; he's wearing it under his cannabis-patterned hoodie. I wish he'd find one for me. I dash home for my winter coat the colour of gloom.

Jeffrey strolls over in the same blue string vest as yesterday and sits for me again. He contentedly watches the image evolve.
'Very nice,' says a passing drunk, patting me on the shoulder. 'That's you, man.'

Look, I know there's room for improvement. A friend writes to me: 'I like the way so many of your sitters decided to give their portraits to their mothers. Curiously touching. Or possibly a veiled insult?'

But it isn't just about drawing. My friend adds: 'There is something special about the process of drawing/painting a portrait, isn't there? A temporary intimacy. Taking the time to really look at a person - even if only for two minutes, it is a concentrated, focussed kind of looking, making a space where you have the possibility of connecting in some way.'

'Will you sign it please,' asks Jeffrey. What do they do with the pictures? Please don't throw it away until you're out of sight. I think a lot of them end up as roaches.

As I draw, several tons of solid rain are dumped on the canopy. Some of it is hurled in sideways. Police and passers-by rush under for shelter. My hair flicks my face in the wind.

Egbert appears for the second time today, in one of his prickly moods.
'How are you, Egbert?'
'You ask me that already, young lady.'
So I did. I didn't mean to be patronising, I'm just a bit vague.

Jacqueline drops in for a chat, en route from the London Print Studio where she's preparing for an exhibition. This open-air daytime salon is far more sociable than my normal feral freelance existence. 
 
I'm forever berating my friend Rebecca for holding her exhibitions in inhospitable places such as freezing belfries, lifts and wardrobes. My heart soars to see her striding towards me across the arid, storm-tossed asphalt.

She looks up at the canopy: 'Ooh, it's just like the Sydney Opera House.' She pours out a cocktail of hot chocolate, brandy and orange juice from a thermos, even bringing a white china cup for me because she knows I don't like sharing cups. 'I always take it on demos,' she says. 'It was very popular on the 2003 Stop the War march.'

She points at Jeffrey: 'I recognise him from the blog.'

Rebecca once worked at a shelter for the homeless. The residents were asked to write a job description for homelessness, such as knowing where to find warm air vents and sandwich rounds. Rebecca then asked them to write a job description for the staff of the shelter.

A boy walks past in Cardinal Vaughan School uniform and a baseball cap with NY on it. 'No one has Totteridge and Whetstone on their baseball cap,' she says.

She points out a public employee carrying gardening tools. 'He's walking backwards and forwards with his hoe. Very Westway.'

Kilimanjaro and Dee are sharing a can of Special Brew. I beckon Dee over.
'Don't make me look old, ' she says.' I haven't been drawn for years and I was made to look 160.'

The conversation turns to a sexual encounter Dee had in the bandstand in Hyde Park. 'Then this man was watching me getting dressed through the railings, yeah.'

She uses an embellished walking stick with a heart-shaped conker swinging from it. 'One of the things I set myself to do before I was 40 was to find a nice Welsh guy. He took me into the bluebell woods and we found this stick. He was a rugby player with thighs as thick as both my legs. He weighed 16 stone but I made him lose three stone so I could see the real him.

'It's nice to get a man in for the winter with a good bottle of wine and a spliff. My mother always asks: "Which nationality is he this time?" Travel through the male population and you'll be surprised what you might find.'

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