Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dinner ladies and painted ladies

This is actually my 500th post!

Today would also have been my Mum's 90th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mum, wherever you are. I'm OK. You'd have no cause for comcern.

I suppose it's probably a bit pointless posting a description of my holiday without photos, but I can't do that on my phone, so words must do.

I haven't yet made it to Blackchurch Rock, nor onto Exmoor or Dartmoor. The weather has changed, and it can be sunny one moment, heavy rain the next. So I've mainly stuck to the towns.

But two days ago I went to a village called Pyworthy, and had lunch at the pub there, the Molesworth Arms, owned by a lady called Denise Short. She's been in the educational news this year, because she saw an opportunity to benefit both the pub and the children of the village school just a few yards away. The children needed a midday meal, but providing one for them by ordinary means was uneconomic. Denise, an ex school dinner lady herself, offered to cook the necessary meals in the pub. A deal was done. In term time, then, the dozen or so children now troop into the pub and sit together in a closed room set aside for them, where they can't be assailed or led onto a wayward path by the fumes of beer and lager, nor the bawdy language of the village regulars. So it's all perfectly kosher. The cost to the school is much less than any alternative, and the pub has gained an assured income. Headmasters and headmistresses everywhere are looking at this innovation. I heard about it on Radio 4 - Woman's Hour, or You And Yours - and decided to see what the cooking was like. Well, I actually met Denise Short, who keeps her pub immaculately, and she cooked me a very tasty giant Yorkshire pudding with local sausages in onion gravy. Real pub grub! I saw the room reserved for the children. And I fell into conversation with four friendly people, one of whom was the retiring rector. All very pleasant.

That same evening it was the Private View at the Burton Art Gallery in Bideford. There was a long queue to get in, and it was packed. Having secured my free glass of wine (not bad wine either) I examined the many exhibits, and quickly decided that a picture entitled 'That Night in St Ives' by Bill Wright was outstanding, and sped off to the desk to buy it before anyone else did. That done, and with the usual orange 'sold' dot now affixed, I had a lot of satisfaction seeing how much interest and admiration the picture was generating. It was very, very skilfully done. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people will pay money for a work that has clearly involved hours and hours of careful, skilful effort on the part of the artist, and this was such a work. The picture also told an intriguing story. It stood out from the rest. More than once, I engaged people in conversation by mentioning that I was the buyer.

Jo Pryor, the Torrington-based artist with a highly distinctive style featuring intricately-decorated women, had also exhibited a painting at the Burton entitled 'Umblemead'. I'd bought her painting 'A Field of Dreams' at the 2009 exhibition, and noticed that, two years on, she was asking nearly twice as much for something similar on the same sized canvas. Clearly she was getting better known, and becoming a name. And no wonder. Every woman I spoke to found her work very appealing. I didn't buy this one, but next day I did buy 'Russia', at The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington, where a number of her paintings were on display. That'll pair nicely with 'A Field of Dreams' and the two could prove a decent little investment. I talked a lot with a woman there, who loved Jo Pryor's work, but now couldn't afford to buy. Her birthday was coming up, and she was very, very wistful. I waited until she'd gone before making my purchase.

A new tyre and two pictures! At this rate, the cash raised by the camera and lens sales will soon be gone! I'd better stay away from the shops. So, a few 'cheap and cheerful' days now, to make up for such extravagance!

Here comes another shower!

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