A scene from two angles: I am asked to send a photo of myself to the Urban Sketchers organisation to illustrate a live talk I will be doing on Sunday. Rita Sabler is the Education Director, and she wants something that is representative of where I am often to be found sketching, and what I sketch. Readers of this blog will know that I sketch a lot of bread, and I sketch at this table (you’ll recognise the grain). I don’t normally hold Reuben when I sketch – he does wriggle at times – but he is in a great many of my sketches, and so I thought it would be appropriate to include him in the photo. The picture is meant to be a fake, but once those paints have made an appearance I can’t very well NOT sketch, can I? But I have reached Peak Bread Sketch and so I do the most rudimentary representation of the bread, and have fun making Reuben part of the sketch instead, who is clearly judging the bread…
The bread is made with a small bit of sulky starter (I forgot to feed it for a day) and a half teaspoon of fast-action dried yeast. It looks and sounds magnificent – and turns out to be sublime, very Parisian but of the type from the old days that they don’t make any more. The bread is open-textured and with a delightfully crumbly, crunchy crust. Reuben only gives it 8 out of 10 but he spits bread out anyway so he’s no judge.
Paddy (18) and his mate go fishing. I am very happy to see the two boys trekking through the field together on their expedition, as both have been fully quatantining for a month. My fear of “outsiders” is over. Just over a month ago I was fearful of everyone, even Paddy’s friend’s family, who are our closest friends. My friendship with them was irrelevant: I was so paranoid about the dreaded virus that I saw everyone as potential covid hotspots. There was even a time when I couldn’t bear to see my younger children getting too close to my older daughter, in the same house, because she was seeing her boyfriend again, who had been ill with covid, and I was not happy about it. It was a primal fear, and I am not ashamed of feeling fearful at that time. It was just fear, which is part of being human.
The boys do not catch any fish.
Liv (15), Reuben and I go for a promised adventure. We nip around the gate to the field next door and walk through a huge sea of green, the grass fresh, young and shiny, very unlike our stumpy, mossy scrub that is an excuse for a lawn. We walk and walk through the evening sunshine and come to the river. Estuary, because the open sea is only a mile or so west. You can’t get to the river easily: the edge of the field is at least six metres above the shore, with a sheer drop. The cliff edge is lined with trees. You can’t get through them, never mind down the steep bank. We walk along the grass until we find some stone steps that have been put in by a human: there is a man who fishes trout and salmon at that point. At the shore things get eerie. Branches of trees reach out over the water, or where the waterline would be at high tide. They are festooned with dry, black seaweed, left behind from an unusually high tide (the estuary has a range from nearly empty to flooding the nearby fields). A very ragged wetsuit hangs from a branch. There are flotation devices in incongruously bright colours hidden under the trees. There is a small boat that is moored close to the shore. We pass through quickly, not liking it. Soon I see primroses and I stop to sketch them, even though they are not the luscious ones I wanted to sketch on the roadside a few days earlier. Liv and Reuben mess around while I sketch. Reuben is over-excited by the rocks on the shore and growls and barks at them while trying to bite and roll them. He does this until his nose is rubbed red and raw, his face grey and sandy. “Reuben,” says Liv, “you look like a mummy that has just been unearthed.” His barking and yowling (rocks hurt) comes back to us in a perfect echo from across the wide stretch of still water, so much so that Liv thinks it’s another dog. Then she spots blood on the stones. Reuben has gone too far and cut his paw. We go home, trekking once more through waving green grass, still so shiny, but with longer shadows.
I wash Reuben’s little face in the bath, but even clean and fluffy once more it still smells like seaweed.