Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye Dickie, Debo and all the Rest

Many now gone
Beyond the veil.

Far too many
To allow.

But there are one
Or two
Hidden from view
I shall regale

You with now.


The guns have fallen silent on a career
That I recall for one film with awe;
And it's not that grandee Ghandi,
Beko or Oh! What A Lovely War

Or should that be bore?

You only need one bright star
In the firmament to see
Brilliance from afar 

And that's Guns at Batasi.

It's better than all the others,
Including Brighton Rock.
And for all those liberal brothers
It came as quite a shock

To hear RSM Lauderdale bellow
At the black fellow
And shout at all the rest:
"I have seen Calcutta.

"I have eaten camel dung.
My knees are brown,
My navel is central,
My conscience is clear,
And my will is with my solicitors,
Short and Curly."

It was the best.

You can keep Jurassic Park
And the rest of the sticky
Computer generated lark.
For me it will always be ...


Thank you, Dickie.


So Farewell Debo;
You were the last
From that past
Which brought O

M and his wife
(Both whom I knew)
Like the Dodo
To an end

Of that line
Called Mitford
(And Mosley!)
You were fine

When the sword
Was held high;
But now we
Wave goodbye

(As you  sail
Toward Avalon)

Like the Dodo
You go
And glow,

Monday, 29 December 2014

Elizabeth Hill R.I.P.

Elizabeth Hill 

(February 1948 - October 2014)

Elizabeth was the first wife of Anthony Hill. He worked part-time at my London studio darkroom from 1963 to 1968. She was called "Zibby" by all who knew her. When I came to paint her portrait years later from memory I placed the subject in the Elizabethan era. She was traditionally old-fashioned in outlook and mirrored Elizabethan Englishness despite her mother being Scottish born and bred. Her father was every bit a Londoner. They represented a type of person who will soon no longer exist, which is perhaps another reason I was drawn to placing her in the distant past. Her views today would be regarded as extreme and indubitably politically incorrect. But not so much back then. What I liked about Zibby was her sense of humour, plus the fact that she spoke her mind without fear or favour. She had wit and showed immense generosity to those whom she liked. Her tongue could sometimes be acerbic, as well as soft; yet she was always true to herself and that is at the heart of what really counts. I appreciated her honesty, and continued to know her until her divorce from Anthony at the turn of the 1980s. This was followed by an accidental encounter with her and her daughter, Jacqueline, a few years later along a busy Kentish Town thoroughfare. I never saw this unique lady again after that meeting. Zibby belonged to a breed now virtually extinct.

Zibby at my portrait studio in the 1960s.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas in a Corner of England

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria! 

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria! 

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!