Wednesday 1 August 2012

The Itch of the Twitch

Not my work but I am taking lessons off his site.  A Man called Robert Kirk.

I recall bringing a kite back from Germany when I was a little kid.  It was big and in the shape of an eagle and looked the part.  This was well before exotic kites could be bought anywhere in UK.

I flew it in the field at the back of the house and within ten minutes, three twitchers armed with cameras and binos had turned up.  They had a good laugh about duping themselves, had a go with my kite and let me play with their binos. 

I was new to the area, they were all neighbours and we remained friends, me eventually earning pocket money baby-sitting for them.  One encouraged me to paint, even getting me a show in Ashby-de-la-Zouch and then a commission from Times Furnishing (one of the first furniture companies to adopt the ‘let’s display our furniture like a room’ marketing idea) to paint a whole series of sea and landscapes in oils for their displays.  If you consider how little time it took me to knock out one of these daubs and how much I was being paid, for a while I was earning more per hour than my Dad.  It was only in my later years I realised that it was these guys, these true neighbours, who were helping my Dad out in a way that would not embarrass him, as the money I earned was a much needed adjunct to the family income.  This was the early seventies and I was getting 80 quid a painting.  That was serious money in those days. 

Years later another one of the original twitchers, who was a local beak, wrote the reference that got me a shot at the Regular Commissions Board.  To thank him, I invited his daughter, a girl I had baby sat, to the Sandhurst Commissioning Ball.  I behaved honourably, not because I was inherently decent, nor that her father was a beak and could have easily come up with a way to legitimately excise me from my testicles but because when she got tired, I still wanted to party so I dropped her off at the hotel before going back and getting paralytic with the rest of the chaps.

A couple of weeks later, the bank phoned me saying they were worried about one of my cheques.  The signature was, in their opinion, highly suspect (this was back in the days of personal banking, remember that?).  I asked for details and then realised it was a cheque I had signed for petrol the morning after the ball when I was taking the girl home.  OK, I did not betray my trust and shag the beak’s daughter but I did drive her home still so pissed I couldn’t even sign my name.

Funny old world... 

After my first tour of Northern Ireland I never painted again.  I lie, I did one more painting which now hangs in Germany.  My Grandfather bought my Grandmother a small paintbox as a birthday present and she complained bitterly to me, convinced she could never paint anything decent with such a small kit compared to the easels and paraphernalia I had in the old days.  So I asked her to fetch me a small kitchen knife and armed only with that, the few tubes of oils and the canvas on the newspaper protected rug, I painted her a landscape.  Obviously, an expert looking at it would describe it as a piece of shit but I painted it for my Granny. Last I heard it was hanging in Baden-Baden with the original kitchen knife suspended below it.  I hope it remains an inspiration to all budding and, therefore, inevitably impecunious artists.

I really wanted to study art but my father said only socialist drop outs studied art before spending the rest of their lives huddled around braziers on picket lines, their only contribution to art being, he said, ‘Their Fucking placards’.  Mind you, he also said that only pimps, wogs and pop stars drove Jaguars.  A father’s influence on his boys should never be under estimated.  I liked Jaguars but never bought one buying a Ferrari instead,   Now if ever there was a car deserving of my father’s somewhat bigoted opinion…

It was my mother who did for me though.  She wanted me to do something respectable and safe, to follow in her father’s footsteps and be an architect.  I couldn’t settle, I hated Maths, I just couldn’t do it, and really itched to study English Literature and Art.  I bombed out at A Level failing maths but I did get physics (a few years later I came top of my entry at the Royal Military College of Science, a large part of our course being nuclear physics and ballistics, both of which require some serious number crunching so figure that one out).  But instead of becoming an architect sitting safely in my cosy office, I became a bomb disposal officer and later a gun for hire.  And now I am going to be a restaurateur.

Now that I really do live out in the sticks, I have suddenly become aware of nature and especially the birds.  I can see that Dominic has the twitch as well and I have even dug a lake to encourage our feathery friends to come and stay.  I am not very good at it (identifying birds that is; like any thug with gravel rash on his knuckles I’m ace at digging lakes, after all they’re just like shell scrapes, only bigger), but boys think their father’s know everything so we can’t let them down.

‘What’s that one called Dad?’

‘It’s an Elbeejay, Son’

An LBJ being a ‘Little Brown Job’.  Trouble is, we also have some really beautiful blue birds fluttering around, nesting in the eaves and some black ones too, so I need to come up with some other system.  They can’t ALL be LBJ’s.  He’s my son so he’s going to recognise a bullshitter pretty damn quick.

As I said, it’s a funny old world and there’s no explaining the Itch of the Twitch.  So I might as well just scratch it. 

‘Dominic, can you pass me the binos...  and the 2B pencil while you’re at it?’

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you can get a bird guide? We were gifted with such a book 25 years ago or so, and it was helpful with names.

    I love watching people draw things. Stick people are about as far as i go when i'm the one armed with the pencil.


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