|First written 25 06 07 ~ modified
Keith Elliott’s recall of a stumbling Margaret Drabble prompted
me, I guess not so much schadenfreude, embarrassment or
disappointment, but as a reminder that all “celebrities” are
only human. (My mum used to say, “Do you think the Queen wipes
her bottom on velvet?”).
Since then the web site is revealing things I didn’t know I
wanted to know….
Pointers to some of my memories... (2000 words below)
Jacqueline Du Pré… her mistake/F and F (often Figure and Ground in …)/owe much to Corsham though …spoiled/My move to BAA and Ellis philosophy/symmetry with fossils
...Medieval Kiln/ethos was a bit(?) prescriptive/kit under the arches “Twinkle...”/Henry demo litho/Russty screen of 2x1… organdie, Cascamite/Beechfield, Marmite at 4 (Worst Marge..)/pink-lit hours pass by - Kennedy shot/Larry Rivers lectures/upstairs in Bath, draw one Trajan O/Howard… explodes 100 coke../Movement
Wangor…“painted suns”/Joe Hope sharp suit ... stripes/… “Adrian” taught us/Rosemary Land Rover/sitting on a
once invited inside the Court to hear Jacqueline Du Pré in a
duet. For showing an interest in music, or for just being older?
I don't know. I think this must have been about the time she became
really famous for her definitive Elgar Cello Concerto. The duo
fluffed their beginning and had to start again. Great teaching:
a teacher making mistakes may often endear the student.
never quite got to give the command “look at what's between
the legs”, though like every art teacher I guess, I yawned out
for years the old F and F (often Figure and Ground from other
colleges) though I developed my own mantra too, didn't you? Did
I say anything that students remember as useful? Precept
was a "Rosemary" word and until I found a dictionary
connection with Prescriptive I thought she meant lead
the way, and don't ask a student to do things you wouldn't
do yourself. I certainly tried to design a course to lead
students into experiences that were course specific, but tried
to leave it open-ended. In other words divergent minds would
owe much to Corsham, though sometimes I wonder if it somehow had
spoiled a slow innocent development. It might have suffered
sometimes from being staffed by those who had been earlier
students there but perhaps had little else to offer life. Via
many lighter remarks on the web site I am getting some feeling
that it must not have been the same place after 1968 and when
the Ellis ethos waned, though Derek Pope would have been only
one generation removed. Since then I have met those taught by
those taught by, ad infinitum back to the Bauhaus: dilution. I
dislike “My teacher used to say..” rather than “I believe
...” OK, they probably did the right things anyway.
Why was I there?
was 29. I had hung my dark suit in the wardrobe, stopped
commuting to London in its smog, (its last) said goodbye to
luncheon vouchers and a promise of endless business lunches in
favour of (my own word then) my “Lifestyle”. I had
cycled 26 miles daily to work since 1951, until my “promotion”.
(I was to do that again).
I applied to BAA, missing the start of 62 by a week so. Clifford
made me wait a year. I could see his point: frying pan, fire.
company also thought, hoped perhaps I might have changed my mind too. I carried
on, touring the branches as managerial material, spending time
in companies, colleges and stores. “The Organisation Man“.
Education seemed to be more worthwhile. Worthy I might
say now with cynicism that often partners wisdom.
63. A New Life. I felt my first one was Over and thought
myself as “old”. At 29!
had 1 and 8/9 children and now dropped to a teacher’s grant,
though this was OK unless major domestic items were to fail .I applied
for Supplementary Benefit in the hols and was told I already had
more than many locals earned!
dad’s health had packed up; mum , with little education, was
even having to earn for the first time in 45 years. That
was the age I came from.
at Corsham, Rosemary sometimes thought I would appreciate
privileges (I did not-they embarrassed my left wing
indoctrination) “You’d like to take the Landrover back to
base, wouldn’t you?” (not really, cars are necessary evils)
“Press the button” said Derek Pope, watching. Luckily.
those days the Land Rover starter button was like a short giant
roofing nail, (clout nail) on a casting (made of charcoal?) I pressed : it broke off.
Rosemary was impressive and thorough : she chose each of us a
painting she felt we would want to focus on when we passed
though the Ashmolean’s door. She was right though studying the Suffragettes
- no thank you! I was
a textile designer so it followed that I would be put into
Painting and Photography. Graphics must have been there
somewhere as we did a project on the “Cool Greenhouse” and
later I worked with Jeremy Rees to proclaim an Edward Lucie
Living at our new semi in Melksham, I only seemed
to know students outside our group from rare encounters. Peers
did the occasional baby-sit and we had a demure party or two.
age as tutors or even older, I found myself explaining to one
tutor (name? I can't be sure.. Peter?) how he contributed to our total
programme. He introduced Symmetry with fossils from the new
Lacock bypass. Later he found a Medieval Kiln nearby. I got up
at dawn (in June too) as Group Photographer, to use low lighting
to show the contours.
was always aware the Corsham ethos was a bit (?) prescriptive, a
precursor of “packages” and “credits”. Bruce “Sam”
Anderton, who like me was married, rode a bike too and he and
his wife rode in a time trial I organised near Lacock Abbey. Sam
was an aesthete who hummed Shostakovich melodies. He could not
stand it and transferred to Newton St Loe after one year. I feel
sorry for those who did not see it through and I feel a bond with
“our club”. But where are they? I have snapshot faces of
many though I hardly knew them. There is much to be said for
being on site 24/24, often lost again with today's low or
it or not, the Ellises had vision and worked hard. I wish I
could say the same about places before or since, where playing
politics often seemed to dominate. I’d write a novel if the
subject were not so depressing. Lodge and Sharpe,
have no fear.
R and C. E. (either or both - did one lead the other, or were
they twin souls we used to ask?) maintained, “expression” was for “the
rest of your life”. That was good enough for me, but I tried
to maintain my integrity. This tended to
result more in reportage than in expressive work. I now feel
that it was restrictive but they had probably had enough of the
pendulum's swing to Abstract Expressionism and its temptation to excuse rigour. But
I'm getting heavy.
remembers queuing up for kit “served by Bernard "under the arches?” If so, do
you remember the graffiti that began “Twinkle...” and ended
Oh no, it’s my own censorship! What
do you think it is? A script for “I'm Sorry I Hav.....”
Ahead of time
always seems way ahead of public acceptance and though I watch
its popular progress I have broadened my interests since
unwillingly retiring early due to educational politics in 91.
Probably my best ever move. Though I
am almost non productive in paint, unlike I thought I would be,
I read more, write, and until I quit “serious” cycling in
1980 with a trip to Baltimore and “serious” running in 2000,
(apart from London Mara in 2005) life only seems to get richer
and richer here in a microcosm in the Welsh Marches. I now go to
Life Drawing and do commissions but tend to stay out of local
left Corsham feeling ahead of the game. Movement was one of the
Corsham themes which seemed to be becoming universally important.
I played with mobile/ Op. A lecturer, quite wrongly I think, put
me off that with “So what? Op's a dead end" but what I
learned is often there now hidden in conceptual pieces. I now think
that comment is equivalent of the
students who would come up to me and say “We did colour in
Foundation !” I have since spent time with Sydney
name is on the staff list, a lovely man, seemingly totally
unconcerned for "Art" but Google him, adding Bradford.
I just have. He advised Bridget Riley too, which is not
have enjoyed much of my teaching. I have few grey hairs. A peer, Tres Wiggins, mistaking my
avoidance of confrontation for patience, and herself frustrated with
me, burst “Michael you are SO reasonable !”. Observer, me,
much of the time.
later watched “The Prisoner”, visited Portmeirion (W.
Clough E?), have and walked up nearby Cnicht several times -
even raced up once! I mention this, apropos of nothing really,
except the estates there, like saga have that spooky romantic
Corsham vibes. I got
into a UK show The Player Biennale (more conceptual), and found
that so had several Corshamites too! (John Eaves was one), about
1/3 including the winner were Corsham "trained?" too. I
became worried about a Group
brain..scary .. …I tried to be less sophisticated.
But Corsham was so romantic.
Snapshot… dreams …
time (archway framed) leaves turn brown against October
blue, I smell again that new life's early days, brown leaves
rustle; Henry wheels his practiced demo litho out, John Vince,
wields a scalpel, Screen Prince, fresh from the sharp end:
Trade, gives us lowdowns; I cycle home, or go by Ford van, to
wife and babies. Was I missing out on hoedowns?
wheels his bike (heavy, trusty, but a little Russty) deftly
hammers panel pins, makes a screen of 2x1 against a wall, cotton
bike to Beechfield, at 4 it's Marmite (Worst Marge ever, spread on
Tea under fanlight, then to Richard, Ewan Wannop
was it? pink-lit hours pass me by -Kennedy shot-
Watch that door! - 20c (forever 68) watch the print come up, it’s
Magic! ; later, for a lens, I cut an ox's eye, not quite Bunuel,
picture of Carol, chequered box (still in the shed, stores
paint) ; old Barn films on Friday nights? Plaisir pur,
French for free, it’s Art so don’t feel guilt!
Rivers? Jim Dine? Hamilton? I think, plus others USA, talk and
display, we feel we could jump the Pond); one summer, on
Saturdays, we sit from 10 till lunch, above the leaves upstairs
in Bath, hunched, draw one Trajan O, just one, talk Baskerville,
mechanical Bodoni, faces old and new. I ride a local 25 (CTT
which see) Whit Monday, ask for an early start, get to college
just in time for 10, art comes first then - Rosemary,
somehow she knew, had already warned me about ..well... she was
a people watcher.. someone asks if there were spies? But I
learned to care more - colour, tone, type, line all the stuff, Choose,
be precise, not arbitrary: poster for Edward Lucie Smith's
visit, honesty never bluff, rigour and Drawing: nude Figure
rigour (though Howard enters, did he hoping for vigour? explodes
100 coke cans around the beautiful red-haired model’s feet,
and then he buggers off).
Park: chequered floor, Vermeer; Monks Park: I prance the floor,
elf-like for the tall dancer - what was his name? Russel..? Lovely man, play
my part. Art is Life Art is Art, the whole world moved, leaves
fluttered, lime keys twizzling, with all those girls I (mostly) controlled my heart;
Wangor, who “painted suns” sees my growing collage, takes my
seat, he shifts a piece, I shift a piece, he shifts:
universality in art, silent (but I'm still as garrulous as
ever). Joe Hope in his sharp suit, a Little Morris Louis? I wrote
a (forgotten ) book on design, not like Norman Potter's classic,
getting a nice letter back from
Robyn Denny with permission to use one of his “kites”. I
later visited Denmark. Seeing the doors, had he been too, I
now, back to 1963, Term 1, baby,
our new baby : a name, com’on? “Call him… “Adrian”,
(Heath) he taught us today", next to where Painters played… ISB?
(Not “Be Glad …”) I think perhaps another. Maybe
someday I'll hear it again?
when he got to two, he asked, “can we go to the neearks?”
(strut around the Park)
has son ..Adr-a-i-n” (notice at Monks Park). The writer I
think was a girl, beautiful (that was no help as a kid, a hindrance, she confessed
to me, I finish with her mishap) curly brunette with a dimple,
often in jeans and bare feet as I recall. Her name? was it
Barbara?..Carr – names bleach out (unlike Back to the Future)
while faces, figures, presences, still lie
in the fixer tray of the brain, waiting to be turned over and
Why these words?
Well the reason they are here at all..... I was telling someone about Rosemary; how, as a family, miles
from Corsham, one day we were driving our Ford van up a woodland track. We met
”Let them pull over, they won’t slip - it’s
probably Rosemary“ I quipped.
And of course it was…. and I
would have dreams afterwards……still do…She haunts me
We now have Broadband. I looked Her up
and there She was, bending down, still iconic, sifting, as
though among corpses of birds. Sifting, like I am now..
Shall I go to this reunion? (this written in June 2007 while
writing my autobiography, getting Broadband and casually
researching Rosemary). Will it be better not to? Who will care,
will my life be enriched?
did not go: I would have, and one day hope to, when there is
more interest from my peers. Our year from my Grammar School,
now also defunct, was one that went solo. We/they meet every
year and endures, while the "Parent" has deceased and
Not everyone wants to remember, it seems. It is good that some
bother to write, complaining. Many are still too busy with the
present. Can't argue with that!
I finish typing this (June 2007) I hear Ricky Gervais and his
philosophy on Desert Island Discs. It sort of matches mine.
Though my 8 discs would be eclectic but very different. For
luxury I would ask to take Kirsty for company (if my wife
couldn't come, of course). I parted amicably from my first, and
this one, Barbara, is younger than my BAA peers.
More memories will flap in to roost, no doubt …… and there's
so much more on the website.. I keep on dipping...
Oh? the curly brunette? Another Barbara. She sat on a Stanley
knife in the Monk's Park bus. I
hope it didn’t leave a scar, (Miss Carr?)