Wednesday 25th March
I’ve had a disturbing dream. I am looking out of the window into the back garden. It’s dark out. Before my eyes, a shrub in the distance bursts into flames. It is sudden and violent, and the flames spread very quickly to the rest of the garden. I run to get everyone out of the house but I can’t seem to find them. I find them, and we go back to the window. Dawn has broken and the garden is just a black patch of scorched earth. I know what this means. The flames are the disease. The suddenness is how it happened. The garden represents the border between the outside world and the safety of my home. And I realise that the dream coincides with the threat that is looming: my daughter Honor seeing her ex-boyfriend in a day or two’s time, who has come through the virus and is on the other side. The fire is telling me that the disease is now on my doorstep.
I give an art class to some of the kids I teach in my village. Following our cactus day the other day I am inspired to get them to do a western scene. I always have to get them to draw something that appeals to both boys and girls, and a mix of abilities – no small task. I know that they will love a western scene, and the skulls, and I realise that I can teach them the vital painting trick of layering in watercolour using this technique. The Zoom class starts. Immediately the chat screen is full of “hi” written by the children, and I’m wondering why they are saying hi again since we have already greeted each other. It’s only afterwards I remember that they haven’t seen their friends in over two weeks – they were greeting them, not me. Class gets underway. I have mixed the younger ones with the older ones, and I soon learn not to do this again. There’s a reason I keep them separated, and with the exception of one or two extremely confident children, I do not hear from the younger kids during the class. There are a couple of small teething problems. My overhead camera isn’t quite close enough to the page I’m drawing and painting on, and I haven’t yet worked out the “mute all” function yet. Someone has a very loud younger brother or sister in full voice and has not muted themselves, and no one will take the blame. I scroll through the list of participants and mute everyone, and the wailing stops. The class is fun, but I have been far too ambitious for the children, and the chat screen is full of complaints about their efforts – “mine is a disaster!” “mine is terrible” “mine is worse” and so on. I have asked too much of the children and i am reminded to keep it simple. The class comes to an end, but before everyone says good-bye we all fetch our dogs and get them to say hello to everyone (ie. hold them and point them towards the camera). It is a special moment. One lovely young lad says that he’d love it if we all met with our dogs in the community centre “when this is all over”. This is the nicest “when this is all over” ambition I have heard. The same lad is very in tune with everyone else and whenever he hears someone with an issue, he tells them what they need to do. It’s uncanny for a kid to be not only so intuitive to everyone else, but to so calmly and simply offer the solution. And he’s not the only lad who does that. They are truly a credit to their parents.
I give another Zoom class to another group of children I teach. They do not find the class challenging which is odd because I only change one thing. I am getting the hang of Zoom but I am by no means fluent. If anything happens I am thrown: apparently I am in another meeting when I begin this one. But we get there. Afterwards, parents of both classes send me messages to tell me that their children are more smiley and in better form than they have been for ages. This makes me very happy indeed.
Honor (20) takes delivery of a brand new iPad and pencil. I am paranoid about the delivery man and signing a nasty diseased signing pad but he preempts this and doesn’t make me sign anything. Honor gets stuck into learning how to use it while I cook. I make a really delicious meal of roasted vegetables drizzled in honey (carrots, butternut squash, red onions and garlic) and baked salmon. It is all very pleasant. I think I have become more creative in the kitchen since the kids and my husband Marcel have started taking a turn each to make dinner. The harmony doesn’t last as yet again Marcel and I disagree about the British handling of the crisis. There’s a lot to disagree about. I flounce out to my studio where I plan to spend the evening preparing my book, Drawing Expressive People, which has a looming deadline, but instead I thread the many face masks I have sewn with narrow elastic and practice wearing them.
Honor sends me a gorgeous portrait she’s done of her ex-boyfriend. As for me, I look forward to sending face masks to my parents and my brother Mal tomorrow.