Sunday, 9 September 2012
L'ENNUI AND KEITH RICHARDS
Once again, I have found myself, as I have on other Sundays, in front of a blank page, hoping that the Muse will return soon from her sick leave. Seldom have I felt less motivated to either paint, write, or otherwise create anything at all, than I have during this non-event of a Shetland summer. The artwork I have been doing has been mostly on commissions, and I have no exhibitions planned for the foreseeable future. I entered my "Lower Voe" painting for the Oldie British Art Award competition, and it didn't make the short-list of ten. This came as something of a relief to me, as the problems associated with getting the obligatory portfolio of work and myself from Shetland to London (which would be an obligation for finalists) was causing me some anxiety, as I don't have either a car or a licence to drive one, and I've never been to the Metropolis before! My feet are of a particularly claggy form of clay, and I've never had any desire to travel - anywhere!
A lot of my time, over recent months, has been spent clearing out my mother's home at Whiteness, to get the place ready for the new occupants, who will be moving in in the next month or so. My sisters and I, ably supported by my nephew Kenneth with a hired van, have been carting tons of stuff off to the Rova Head dump, and putting further copious quantities of clothes, furnishings and bric-a-brac to charity shops in Lerwick. I was surprised when the local re-cycling firm Shetland Scrapstore accepted three old typewriters for their renovation enterprise scheme. A numismatist is to visit me on Tuesday to look at my late father's coin collection (which he kept in two old sweetie tins in the bureau of his study), and I've made up a package of over a hundred used foreign stamps, off the many letters and postcards we found, which I'm sending off to the MS Society of Scotland, in the hope that they can still use them.
And all the time we have the uneasy feeling that we are callously and arbitrarily trashing the life of our dear mother, who now resides, apparently quite happily, in the Overtonlea Care Centre at Levenwick, a parish in the south mainland of Shetland. The stage had been reached when she was no longer able to live in her own home, and she had become resigned to this fact when the vacancy arose at the centre at the end of April. Since then, we have all been engaged in the various practicalities and administrative matters to do with her change in residential status and the sale of the house. For nearly sixteen years, ever since my father died in October 1996, I have been my mother's care attendant, getting her shopping and pension, doing bits and pieces of work around the house and garden, helping her with appointments at various places, and any other matters arising. None of it has felt at all burdensome to me, and I feel rather out on a limb now that the moment (which I have known was approaching for the past sixteen years) when my attendant services would no longer be required, has arrived.
Now, for the first time in my life, I feel a little lonely and vulnerable. Long ago, I would have dispelled such negativity at the pub, life always having looked rosier through the bottom of a pint-glass. But that was in a sweeter bygone age, when bars were warm, friendly and exciting places where dreams and schemes would materialise and fade among my smoke-rings. Since the Scottish government's Pick-A-Soft-Target-and-Hit-It-Hard act, pubs have taken on the clinical atmosphere of a dentist's waiting-room, much fewer people bother to go now, and many bars are closing down as an inevitable consequence. I think the last time I visited my local (the Lounge!) was back in May, when friends of mine were up in Shetland for the Classic Motor Show.
In short, the only way I can avoid boring myself to tears is to work, and, in my line as a professional artist, it's difficult to maintain a consistent level and standard of work over prolonged periods of time. One needs to re-charge the batteries, so to speak, and that seems to be what I have been doing lately. I just hope the gauge registers "full" soon.