Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Portrait of Jean Abercromby

(Inspired by painting of same name by Allan Ramsay & Day Dreams by Alfred Walter Bayes)

He wants to paint my portrait. I suppose it was to be expected, I did marry a painter. I feel… unusual. I can’t quite describe it. It’s the way he looks at me. It’s different now. I’m no longer his Jean, his forever love, his sweetheart. Something has shifted in his gaze. I catch him staring; while we’re eating breakfast or talking, or when we make love. He looks at me with a cold determination, just for an instant. It’s as if he is weighing me up, sizing me, turning and analysing me. I am no longer a heart, a mind, a body. My flesh is merely a colour. I am angles and lines. I am shadows and light. I have become his subject.

Yesterday he brought me a posy of delicate, wild flowers. He said he picked them from the edge of the woodland that borders our estate. He wrote me a love letter and brought me tea with honey. We talked and kissed and sat on my tiny settee until late afternoon, when I dozed off, as I often do on an afternoon. I awoke a little later to find him sketching me in his little book. He had pulled my gown over the settee and placed my posy next to me. It was then that I realised how perfectly the flowers in my posy matched the flowers on my gown; red, white and blue with green leaves. Should I have felt flattered to find my husband drawing me while I slept? Perhaps. But there was that keen look again, that steely eye, that firm mouth. This was not a loving husband seeking to capture his beloved’s image to treasure. This was something else.

He smiled at me and put down his tools. ‘You are beautiful’ he whispered. ‘A vision. The afternoon light is your best. Tomorrow you will sit for me, in my studio. I am ready to paint you.’ He took my hands in his, putting aside the love letter I still held, and kissed them. Then he led me into the garden and we walked through the willows and along the riverside. There was a faint mist floating just above the water. It drifted silently towards us. It touched my skin as I stood at the water’s edge. I shivered. He drew me closer to him with his damp hands and held my shoulders. ‘You need a shawl’ he murmured. I smiled at him. ‘A lace shawl, yes, and a pearl choker around your neck. I have one. Yes, yes, and you will wear your blue dress.’ I turned back to the misty river, and felt my skin grow cold.

The trail of war

(Inspired by painting of same name by Sydney Carline)

As I walked over the fields, kicking up dirt with my scuffed tan boots and tripping over the hard rocks that jutted out of barren earth, I came across an eerie thing, an old abandoned playground.

It lay a few fields ahead of me, but I could see it in the dimming daylight; all bent and wonky. Rust-coloured climbing frames and a broken roundabout. As I came closer, I felt my pace quicken. I realised I was excited. It was just so absurd. In this wasteland of dirt and emptiness, of unploughed fields, of nothingness, here, was a children’s playground. In a field, miles from anywhere, with juicy green grass, the only grass I’d seen all day, here it stood, silently. Seen only by me and the heavy white clouds sitting so close above, that looked ready to drop like a feather-heavy duvet and smother the whole scene.

I felt my feet running, almost skipping towards this mirage, but then I noticed something, something wrong, something I couldn’t quite place. The climbing frame, it wasn’t a climbing frame, it looked like, no… a propeller? I stopped running. I stood still, suddenly a little scared.