Last night I heard of the passing away of a my friend Sandra Haywood.
Sandra had been a friend to our family ever since we stayed in her holiday cottage whilst house hunting in Norfolk in 1995 when my children were still babies. Sandra and I hit it off straight away, sharing a common love of art and animals. She was an incredibly gifted and prolific artist, and her paintings and drawings were like her visual diary. Sandra had the most amazing ability to make marks on paper or canvas with such spontaneity and gusto, I really envied her that ability, as I was just starting to open up my creativity and I felt everything I did laboured, awkward and trite.
She had a huge heart, and opened up her home to everyone, it was always full of family and friends. That included the waifs and strays from the animal world; she seemed to collect dogs, horses, cats, sheep along the way. She even gave us our Arthur; he was a puppy in a shelter at the time and Sandra bought him for us. She and her husband Roger paid for his vaccinations and his neutering; she said she knew we would give him a loving home. He is still with us here in France 11 years later.
About a year ago Sandra rang and chatted breezily for half an hour before saying to me "have you heard the news about me, dear?" and then she told me she was dying from cancer. She said she could have 2 months or 2 years, they could not tell her. She added that she wanted to come and visit us very soon, but unfortunately she was never well enough to make that journey, and I have not been able to go back to England either.
In our home we have several of her artworks. One is called 'Looking after Lola', and she drew back it in 1998 while chatting to me over a cuppa, I had come to pick up our dog Lola from her who had been staying with Sandra while we went holiday for 2 weeks.
Another is this beautiful painting which she gave to me as a birthday gift the last time I saw her, 2 years ago. We had to sandwich it between to big rectangles of heavy board to keep it flat, so we could put it in the hold for our flight back to France.
I feel so saddened by her death, but I was proud to be her friend, and my thoughts are very much at the moment with Roger and their children.
It's funny how an image like this has such a timeless quality. I took this picture of Milla's feet as she was paddling down at the river that runs through our village.
When I picked up the processed photos (you know how it is, you can't wait to get back in the car and rip the packet open!) I had this really sudden rush of happy memories of my own childhood flooding back. Despite the fact that I grew up in a city, in England, ahem, many years ago, it just reminded me so much of how me, my 2 brothers and 1 of my sisters (sorry but the other one was to old and teenager-ish to be bothered with us!) would go down to the stream and spend many a happy afternoon paddling and fishing with our nets for minnows and sticklebacks. No grown-ups, no-one to spoil our fun, not a worry in the world.
The only reason to come home was hunger!
It's worth mentioning that that this photograph is available now as a limited edition print in both my etsy and dawanda shops. Click on the links on the left to take you there, or go to my black-eyed angel shop
Since I bought it on ebay in July, I've shot my way through 2 x 36 exp films, on to my third now and it's been super-exciting!!
Also it's been a very steep learning curve. At the very least half of the shots are completely crap but I've now fallen back in love with film big time.
I shall post more photos on my flickr a bit later and try very hard not to let it completely take over my life.
Yesterday was my birthday (droopy drawers), and so we went to see the 'Dreamtime' exhibition. Half of the exhibition was in Les Abbatoirs Museum of Modern Art in Toulouse and the other half, which we saw yesterday, was in the prehistoric caves at Mas d'Azil. The works are a culmination of 3 year long residencies by various international contemporary artists and their individual responses to the caves.
It was a really weird way to experience the art, the caves themselves are pretty scary, eerily lit and sometimes quite claustrophobic. But it was really intriguing to connect with the works in this environment as opposed to a gallery setting, they were much more interactive in such an unnerving place, although very difficult to photograph!