Days 237 – 241

City.

Five days in London. It’s been busy and fun and quite tiring, but great to have got out of Penzance for a while.  The speed of change and development in the city is extreme, and not just the East End, parts of which are unrecognisable from even 12 months ago.  From my flat in Battersea where I was meeting up with Rene who rents the place, the view towards the city centre at dusk is overlain by an extraordinary array of bright red dots, the high level warning lights of dozens of cranes.

I visited all four quarters of the city; staying NW with David S in Queens Park, across SW to Elephant and Castle and my studio, up NE to Bow and Shoreditch staying with Susanna H and across again SW to Battersea to visit my flat.  Travelling around the city has never been easier, the buses are quicker now that everyone has to use a travel card rather than fumble for change, and David showed me an app for the iPhone that not only instantly works out bus/tube routes but calculates walking routes through quiet back roads and footpaths that makes walking a joy and often faster than the bus.  A new London opening up after my years of dicing with death on motorcycles and bikes…

The changes to the East End are amazing.  Of course most of my friends who have been there for the last two decades are feeling pressured and sometimes jaded and cynical about it, but actually as a visitor I enjoyed the feel of the streets once you’re off the main drags where independent cafes and restaurants and groovy shops have sprung up and people stroll about and drink gallons of delicious smelling coffee.  I don’t know, the East of my London years was often just filthy and sometimes dangerous, often depressing – I can see that the fashionistas could be annoying but all in all it felt good.

I’m out of touch with many people I knew of course, so I wonder what happened to someone like Gwendy who lived in a tumbling house on Sclater Street where a 25 storey monster block of flats full of city rich now sits?  A monster pay-off I hope…

So, five days.  I spent two long afternoons down at the studio sorting, checking, labelling, packing and re-stacking art works, moulds, odd tools and odds and ends in the attic space.  Naomi D was a great help and it was good to catch up with her.  I had big plans to shift the things I wanted to keep back to Penzance but I realised after a couple of days that this was overdoing it.  I’m not in great shape really, get very tired and sore, my feet get swollen walking about and being on them all day, my legs ache like I’ve just run 10 miles…shifting a van load of stuff down three flights of stairs is too much, plus the stress of organising a van and help loading and driving it, although LOTS of people offered help, thank you thank you!

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So, I have at least sorted and listed what I want to keep and can now make an inventory of art works that I still own, and following on from this can begin to work out what to keep or otherwise dispose of.  Actually moving the stuff can wait, preferable until I have a more secure and spacious place in Penzance to store it.

A large part of this London trip was to get to grips with how to manage the remnants of my art life.  This has been on the list for some years of course, but the uncertainty of the outcome with the cancer has focused my mind, and I’ve wanted to get things more organised.  So I’ve had meetings with my accountant Mustafa who was a great help and reassuring, and with DACS, the artist copyright society, who again were helpful.  I’ve got a list of things I need to put in place but it’s not insurmountable and will be good to do, relieving me of worry and continuing the process of organising for whatever the future brings.

Also very good discussions with Teresa G and Susanna H who all have useful advice and experience to pass on.  I don’t feel so alone with it now, and can see how to make a plan that will be manageable if things go awry next year.

And beyond all this organising I’ve been spending time with old friends;

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David S (always generous, a bed, breakfasts and helping carry things and driving us across town), Betsy (Buck and Fausta grown up and fireworks through the trees)

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Teresa G and Iain B (88 Fleet St Mayday Rooms lunch and pub and the archive of protest), Fi B (dinner, film Mr Turner), Naomi D and Lolly B at the studio, Simon E (long talks and poached eggs, wearing long shirts from Fi presents from Morocco)

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Susanna H (Patrick’s paintings close up incredible and a room of my own in the garden and supper with Andrew and Ingrid)

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Roman (green tea and nutritious chat), Anne and Angus (feasting on Tomoya’s sushi, plus homemade pickles, smoked mackerel and lava bread)

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It’s been non-stop but I’ve loved it.  Enjoying cafes and sitting and reading and walking and quietly thinking things through.  Forgetting the cancer altogether for long stretches of the day but then it coming back “oh yes, that’s happening as well…” And sometimes it makes being with more than one person quite hard because general chat and banter seems suddenly irrelevant and I can’t contribute and withdraw into myself, but other times I completely forget it and can laugh and grin and wonder and shake me head with the rest of them.