America After The Fall

The name of the exhibition I went to at the RA was apt, as was the tone of the information boards and the whole curation – it was knowing, and it was very much about current times. It was a small but busy show, in the lesser part of the Academy buildings – the Sackler space- and focussed on non-abstract painting in 1930’s and 40’s America. The starting point was the Wall Street Crash and New Deal that saw Artists being subsidised by the state to create public works. The *star* of the show was meant to be Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’- a famous image of a dour man and woman standing in front of a farmhouse – an image much copied and parodied, almost as much as the ‘Mona Lisa’. For me this was not the golden image of the show – though it was very popular and used in promotional materials – there was no one stand out. Instead I was pleased to find artists I did not know, and that made connections, interesting, pleasant connections, in my head. I learned that America had it’s version of Communist Russia’s ‘Social Realism’ – not anti-Social Realism, but Capitalist Realism. In addition I learned that the US also had it’s version of Otto Dix’s sad, seedy, blasted visions of Weimar Germany. I like these types of connections. I like the buzzes and pops and sparks that happen in my head when I see them. I like, I get great pleasure, from finding artists new to me.


Grant Wood (1891-1942) – ‘American Gothic’ 1930


Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) – ‘When the Fleet Comes In’ . 1934

This image, with it’s naughty sailors and painted ladies and gents made me think of Dix.

The picture I spent most time with (I went round the show twice – it was very crowded) was actually a seemingly unremarkable image of industry ‘And the Home of the Brave’ 1931 by Charles Demuth (1883-1935):


Why? Because of an odd nostalgia. The bottom third of the painting, where the colours become pastel and the shadows disappear, reminded me of the work of  Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) who apart from being born in my part of London, was an artist I only got to know at A’level. The Summer weather (it’s rather hot in London at the moment) always makes me think of my teenage years, and I believe that I’m thinking of them even more than usual at the moment. I dislike Summer because my body cannot cope well with heat, I have oily ‘bad’ skin which glistens in Winter,  I sweat an uncomfortable amount and worst of all, because it makes me think like a teenager. My teen Summers were spent in a room with all the windows open but the curtains closed, watching TNT and Cartoon Network. I had no friends and my parents didn’t encourage activities. I feel a little like this at the moment. I’m in the house a great deal and the only person I talk to regularly is my Dad. As you see, I have been out, but rather than breaking my funk, it seems to have added to it. I’m going to hear a talk on Queer Art (or the Queer in Art) given by someone I’ve known for 10 years, but I’m so nervous I’m fretting about my clothes like I were meeting the Queen. When you don’t socialise, you get out of practise. I need to flex my social muscles.

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Patrick Caulfield – ‘Still Life: Autumn Fashion’, 1978

I have done one absolutely positive thing: I planted seeds in my garden. I finally got round to it. I sifted the soil on the top of the large bed (it’s taken 2 weeks working at 15 minutes a time), added lots of mixed wildflower seeds, and covered with new soil. It’s very late in the year to be doing this, but let’s hope it works. One of the Hellebores gave up the ghost, but the orchids are doing well – Orchid 2 has 6 flowers out on 2 stems, one flower waiting and what seems to be a new spur. Orchid 1 has one stem, but it’s a mighty one – knobbly, difficult to train and with the air of a dragon’s penis about it.



The Business Ending

In a follow up to my last shit-filled post…

I thought the diarrhea had gone: it hadn’t. I had to take off one of my volunteering days (4 hrs) and just ‘go with the flow’. I wasn’t right until Sunday. Holy Hell did I feel bad. I still don’t know what brought it on – what I ate or didn’t that wrecked my guts, but I’ve been on cereal ever since. And I’ve started pro-biotics. I did try them years ago, but they made me ill, however this time a very knowledgable friend of mine suggested I make sure they were dairy free – and voila! my stomach feels better. My bowels are still being random, but I don’t hurt inside all the time. I don’t have a ‘dairy problem’ that I know of, but maybe my guts are more sensitive than I imagined. Me being me, my body is not being kind – you stop having cramps because of your bowels and along comes Menses. Ahhh, the Red Wedding. And what a jolly time we are having here in Bowermanland. My joints are burning – ankles and knees – I want to sleep for England, and I even managed to go to bed without putting any sanitary protection on AT ALL because I was so tired. Though this is the first time I’ve done this (another first after last weeks tube debacle) and though I believed I would be horrified, it was actually quite useful: I bleed heavily – I have anemia, I’m a big lass, I’ve always had 5-7 day periods- I’ve always been scared of just bleeding, but now I’m not as scared. 6 hours in bed (bed usually means bloodbath) and I was not a horror show. A good learning curve.

My facial cysts are still being bastards – very slow to shift at the moment, a bit of my tooth stump (one of the right upper incisors) broke off and I had to go to the dentist. It looks like I’ll have to have the roots removed. Calligraphy whupped me again – I was already exhausted after the stomach aches and cramps – so gaining upper body pain from the calligraphy was just a bonus. And I’m writing this rather than do my home work. I’m back wearing a wrist brace because my old RSI decided to come back a few weeks ago after a calligraphy class. So everything is just a snowball of little annoyances. I’ve not been to an art show in quite a while now, but on Tuesday (post dentist) I did manage to get to the late night opening of the Hunterian Museum in London, the last before it closes for 3 years for renovation. I was very pleased I managed to make it – that I made the effort. My womb and my knees didn’t want me to get there, but when I did, I saw versions of them in jars, which made me chuckle. I last went either as a student (2004) or as a trainee librarian (2007). One of the first things you’d see is an example* of a spine and hips with kyphoscoliosis. I remember when I first saw it, it made me feel awful, sick, embarrassed – my face went red- because that was me. But this time I did not feel like that at all. That is the difference between 20-something me and 36 year old me. I didn’t balk at anything that I saw that was related to me. Even when I heard other people go ‘ewww’. That is the glory of aging. That was a good reason to drag my womb to Lincoln’s Inn. A reason I had not considered.

*An actual 18th century skeleton wired together. Just a trunk, sitting there.

The Business End

A brief re-cap of certain things, just to get started.

My Mother got diagnosed with Terminal Cancer almost exactly 2 years ago. On learning this my Dad went into a frenzy and decided to re-decorate the house. Something he’d procrastinated about since 1993. When Mum died, 6 months later, she had spent her last weeks in a shitty hell hole of builders. She got to see 2 rooms an a hall painted.  2 years on, we have… 2 rooms and a hall painted. The rooms have shelves. One, the ‘Book Room’- a bed room converted to a library/tv relaxation room, is completely finished – curtains, sofabed – everything. The ‘living room’ is not. It’s curtains lie waiting to be put up, and brown paper covers the windows. We also need to get a sofa. Though he nagged me about getting the curtains, and made me very ill during that time, my Dad has been glacial about putting them up. But he has destroyed another room. I spent my Lent clearing out the smallest bedroom that had been used for 9 years as the Ultimate Storage Space, just so my Dad could go in and take the paper down etc. because that kinda thing makes him feel useful. So I’m living in a dump. A dump where you think you can put a line under something, but then a 72 year old arsehole decides to do his own thing without telling you, but thinking you’ll magically know what he’s going to do, and wants to do.

I am not well because of this. I’ve had a year or more of stress and my body is now trying to give up. It started with an increase of depression and suicidal thoughts – not getting out of bed, not eating – my hair started falling out, skin went to pot. It gained pain from my clearing and moving so much stuff in such a short time. The pain was compounded by my trying to do other things to make me happy – gardening. Now my guts have gone. I don’t have a gallbladder. I have IBS and also I’ve had pancreatitis. My stomach area is very sensitive. I do go days without eating properly because I’m too tired to cook. I’ll eat cereal. I have constant constipation and I do get really random diarrhea. Last week I spent a lot of time feeling very sore and very ‘ill’ – headachy, not wanting to eat. I really fucked myself up on Saturday  night by over-doing my calligraphy homework and staying up until 6am in a weird state of agitation, which happens when I get a second wind. Sunday I felt like something tried to kill me and went back to bed. Monday: calligraphy, Tuesday: exhaustion and pain from calligraphy – stayed in bed. Wednesday: Shit, have to return something to a shop in central London – I can’t afford not to. And I seem to have diahoerrhea too. Ok. Take pills. Get home from a particularly fucked up journey (lots of extra walking, lots of stairs up and down, and for the first time, I got on the wrong train on the Central Line that I’ve been using for almost 30 years). Cook, eat, feel sick, get the shakes and sweats. Try to vomit. Have shower. Fuck. Gut ache. The gut ache (cramps) started at 1am, and is still going. I’ve farted and pooed and taken all the pills, but now my stomach feels like a prize-fighter went to town on it. My heart rate is up and I feel groggy and just wrong. I’ve also broken out in cysts – I have cystic acne. It had calmed down, but the recent stress has just fucked everything up. One side of my mouth is just a big, plague like sore.


And the worst thing is, there’s nothing I can do about it.

I spoke to my therapist about my Dad and she said 2 things ‘You’ve got to take control and make boundaries’ and ‘Can you move out?’. My Dad doesn’t understand boundaries, and at heart believes he’s doing me a massive favour by letting me stay in my family home rent free. For this favour I have to do what he wants – clearing rooms for example (his favourite phrase is ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ – he pays the bills so what he says, goes). Else he’ll get nasty. He’s always gotten nasty with me, as I’ve written before. He doesn’t do the same to my healthy, successful, older brother. Can I move out? I live on £125 per week. I’m lucky to have that. Super duper lucky. Living at home causes me stress – I’d be throwing myself out the window if I had to manage my own space. I can’t lift dustbin bag.

So I’m sitting here in my nightie, with a bealing crusty lump by my mouth, an aching gut, farting and running to the toilet trying to fix whatever my gut is up to, in a house that feels like an avalanche.


A Punch to the Face, Igor

With Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and the pain I get from/ with it, sometimes something happens physically to pull me up. It feels like this:

I did a stupid thing last Friday: I watered the plants in my garden using a can – because I needed to mix fertiliser in with the water.  A week later I still cannot move my neck properly. The lifting and manoeuvring of the can did something to my left shoulder, which developed into a neck problem which woke into a hint of Torticollis and Bang! Agony. I’ve not been in so much pain and lacking in movement like this for a very. long. time.

This brought on pain everywhere else, the need for painkillers, thus a lack of bowel movements, and then a couple of migraines. I still can’t feel my left hand properly. And I still can’t move my head, or hold it straight. I’ve been doing a proper Marty Feldman as Igor this week (I have bug eyes and a hunch), and see that this might last a while.

All I want is to plant some seeds, and look after my (non-lady) garden. Bah-Humbug!


Marty Feldman as Igor in Mel Brooks’ ” Young Frankenstein”: I sing and dance like this too:  (the one on the right – though I do know the words and tune to ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ and before I lost my voice to Dysphonia, used to sing it quite a lot. I did used to sing in choirs and bands…):