We were expecting a quiet day with a bit of activity but not the one which unfurled last week. It began as we sipped our first drink of the day and the lorry arrived with the roof for our glorified garden shed, which we’d been told would happen at noon. The driver was an overly chatty chap who had driven six hours to deliver the custom roof demanded by the Council Planners (living in a conservation area, everything must go through them, even the colour of our windows) . This was well before the working day should start, so we cautiously rang the builders for their help, for my hands are no longer able to lift anything more than a cup of tea without severe pain. The saga of off-loading, of ensuring the sometimes angry traffic could get round the huge lorry in this little town’s street main, of helping the driver turn, to the consternation of more annoyed drivers, and of getting him and his huge beast out of this quaint but tight little town, took us to late morning.
We suddenly were alone and realised our tummies were groaning with only half a cup of tea hours earlier. We walked up to the nearest cafe and took breakfast, which it being later, they specially cooked for us as they’d begun serving lunch. Desperately thirsty, with the eggs on toast, we drank too many irresistible coffees made by the Portuguese owner, hence we ended up in a buzzing conversation with a retired journalist who is now hiring out tandem bikes. Finally extracting ourselves from this coffee-driven jawing, we stumbled the two hundred metres home as I needed a sleep. Sleep after coffee? Silly idea.
It didn’t matter, entering the house we could hear water bubbling up somewhere and found the ancient stone slabs outside our back door flooded. We turned various stop-cocks on and off time and again and finally by the end of the afternoon had worked out that the serious amount of water gushing from the ground was not our problem, but the neighbours. Thank goodness for those powerful coffees, but suddenly it was time to shoot over to Ilminster’s Arts Centre, a thriving endeavour. I had been summoned, winked at, emailed, texted, even called - each time saying it was vital I attended their popular annual do.
We were greeted with glasses of Prosecco and joined over ninety arty people who walked about admiring the excellent artworks in the Annual Open show. I honed-in on other artists, identifiable, as was I, by name-stickers and listened to them talk about their work. I heard an artist say of my entry, “That’s rubbish, I could do that.” The judge he was talking to said, “Go on then, you’ll find it is not as simple as you think.”
The lively ex-art lecturer from London who has taken over the art side of the Centre clapped her hands and started to talk about the high quality of entrants this year. Everyone I had talked to had said it was the best Open they’d ever seen. A list of respected artists were called up to be presented with a certificate and prize and then the presenter said, “Though the quality of work has been superbly high, the judges were unanimous in deciding the Overall Winner - Iain Dryden!”
Utterly gobsmacked to have been singled out from such a field, I hobbled forwards like Quasimodo, feeling foolishly gawky as a long loud applause and cheers accompanied my accepting the certificate and prize. I spent the next hour amongst those who stayed on. One person was heard to say, “Judges, open your eyes!” Perhaps they didn’t like abstract work, however, the overall feeling was positive.
We returned home to find the water-saga continuing outside our back door, with a lot of grumbling from the neighbours claiming it was our fault - due to last year’s renovations. Lifting the slabs, we discovered a rusty pipe. But still this somehow was our problem, we’d been heavy footed! I called in our plumber who arrived at 8pm and soon stated it was the fault of a rusty pipe. He agreed my proposed solution, which had been rejected, was the way forward. Exhausted, hungry, dizzy from it all, we finally started cooking at 9pm and slumped in to bed very late and boggled by the day.
Before I had time to recover, four days later (yes, it now takes ages), we went to a long arranged talk I was to give at a popular bookshop/cafe in a town which lures London’s celebrated arty set. The small shop was packed and an author whose books sell world-wide asked if I were nervous. Surveying the lively crowd, I said, “Not amongst these lovely faces.” He was to later interrupt me, holding up one of the three works I was talking about and announce, “I’ve looked at hundreds of such books in many countries. This is unique, as are the drawings. I had to buy it.”
Due to the manager Angeliki’s magnetism and knowledge, the atmosphere was intelligently critical, vibrantly joyous and convivial. We felt utterly at home and the hour flew by as Camilla and I talked and responded to spontaneous questions. Somehow each book had been touched upon when Angeliki said, “We’ve only just scratched Iain’s surface, this was just Session One.” The audience burst out laughing, clapping and agreeing as Angeliki invited me back again. Everyone bought at least one book, many walked away with all three and the next day Angeliki sold more to others drawn in by those who had attended. Again, I was boggled. OK, over the decades I’ve won awards and accolade, but each time I am always surprised because I genuinely think we are each creators, that we are all equal, it is just that some work at it whilst others find other things to do…
This week, still recovering, I am filled with joy that there are so many talented people out there. If only we could somehow harness that force, allow it to work for the good of this fragile planet, for the forces of money and greed which drive this world are not concerned about the future. As the words of those fighting to replace the UK’s departing Boris brat have shown, Global Warming is less important that our builder’s and our lorry driver’s opinions, for our politicians want re-electing, nothing more. They think of themselves, only themselves. To counter this destructive force world-wide, we must bring in powerful laws which make our supposed representatives accountable. We, the ordinary folk are judged by what we do and say, so why not them? They should be fined, sacked, even imprisoned - as are we for our misdemeanours. That would hail in a better democratic system. You and me, as with Global Warming, are powerful, we must act… and find ways to act together.