Washing Day Blues

Brittany’s still wet and cold at this time of year and now’s a good time to get some
Urban Sketching done indoors. I can’t go in the studio with the heater on as we’re on a system of electricity which means we get expensive days, and this week’s full of them.
What better, then, than to hole up in the kitchen with the woodstove a-burnin’ and the kettle a-singin’ and the cat a… you get the picture. It means, too, that I can spend longer on a larger, more ‘finished’ picture.
Kitchens are wonderful places to draw and in my head I’m singing Robert Johnson’s ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ as I work.

Thoughts turn to this, the most important (sometimes the only) room in any home. The heart of a home, it’s said, and ours is no different.
The ancient, simple table is one I bought at auction, already worn by a hundred years of use. This ink stain at one end must be where ‘Father’ sat and laboured over his letters, where down the years his hands smoothed and oiled the surface to a rich, deep sheen.
Here, too, have congregated our own friends and families.Although ” some have gone and some remain.. some are dead and some are living” (Lennon-McCartney), they sit here still, in the mind’s eye… the babies Sam and Ben brandish their spoons; my son sits with a ‘lucky dip’ of girlfriends; my daughter and her new boyfriend are here- she’s pregnant but she doesn’t tell me; a German photographer is beguiled by scones with jam and cream (he took pictures of us for an alternative guide to Brittany!) and Mr. Price’s rock band Dynamos snack on home-made biscuits.
Here’s Mark from Birkenhead with tales of his love-life; William with one wife, then a second; our neighbour
‘The Only Intellectual in the Village’ sweeps back his long black hair (his ridiculously pointed shoes are under the table) And here, too is poor doomed Tom- “Tom with the scruffy hair” my children call him. Tom who a couple of years later fatally falls from a cliff.
Unexpected guests take their place round the table- one July a tall fair stranger and his son knock on the door at midnight looking for shelter. They’ve travelled from Holland that day and, puzzled, can’t find accommodation on the lowliest campsite or the fanciest hotel. He’s Mat V, who is a well-known face on Dutch television, but of course we don’t know him from Adam and why should we? We drink some beer, put them up next door, they end up staying all week, and visit us regularly down the years. Although, now, they never travel to France on Bastille Day!

Caroline Johnson, Rennes and Manchester.


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