Friday, May 30, 2008


Tomorrow all day (10-5) I'll be sharing space at London Underground Comics' NO BAR CODE extravaganza in the market at Camden Lock, so if you're in London, come and say hello (and bring a chair/stool/sofa). I have to prepare stuff for this so no autobiopsing today. More on Sunday, probably.


Thursday, May 29, 2008


The gnashing of my teeth must have been heard all over the cybersphere. I trust that Blaugustine's sudden demise was noticed and loudly lamented? I will refrain from venting my rage against Virgin Broadband etc etc. because it would just cause more negative vibrations and I don't need any more of those, thanks very much.

You know what it feels like to lose your beloved connection, your beloved email, your beloved blog, your beloved words and pictures for two three four whole days, don't you? So I don't need to tell you. I'll just go ahead and post what I was about to post when I was so cruelly interrupted.

The Burial of Mickey Mouse: Part 22

Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves a dark house and a whip as madmen do: and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too. (Shakespeare: As You Like It)

When in love, truly, deeply, madly - especially madly - the painter-part of my brain tends to go sulky, timid and passive. Unlike Picasso, damn him, whose every love affair produced surges of visual invention, I haven't got many images to show for those periods of my life taken over by the monsoon wind. On the other hand, verbal brain cells go into overdrive. Words flow out of feverish head into ever-ready pen, covering acres of paper, journals, poems, letters, filling up daydream and nightdream space. It's a kind of disease. No, not kind of: it is a disease for which there is no cure but time. I have caught and embraced this illness three times and that's more than enough for one life. I never wanted to be cured and neither common sense, morality, feminism, literature, art or psychology made the slightest bit of difference to my symptoms, too painfully ecstatic to be relinquished for the sake of mere contentment. Today, in the future of that past, I'm cured, but I cherish the residue of that dis-ease, the rich compost heap in which I hope some exotic flowers will grow before my time is up.


Monday, May 26, 2008

The Burial of Mickey Mouse: Part 21 continued

A large part of T's early childhood was spent in hospital, having operations to repair the damage done to his guts when a lorry ran over him as he was crossing the street. He had an impressive network of scars over his chest and belly as a reminder. Bright and curious, he absorbed every scrap of information that each new experience provided. He knew all about plants, about buildings, was an expert framer - he showed me how to separate a sheet of shimmering, trembling gold leaf from its 'book' and lay it down gently on the bare wood - and he could repair almost anything. His first full-time job was with London Underground, working on the tracks. But in his spare time T began to paint and to exhibit in the amateur shows at his workplace.

I don't know exactly how old T was when he first met M but probably in his late teens or early twenties. She was older and inhabited an intellectual upper middle-class world totally different from anything he knew. T's mother was the cleaner in M's Kensington home and that's how M happened to hear about her creative young son. M was a sensitive sculptress but had, above all, a gift for detecting and encouraging genuine talent. When she saw T's early paintings she immediately took him under her wing and thus began a Pygmalion-like saga, with the genders reversed. Under M's tutelage T began to attend art classes, visit museums, theatres, concerts. She told him what books to read, what music to listen to, but with his usual apetite for knowledge, T soon out-distanced his mentor and a few years on there wasn't much in the cultural lexicon that he hadn't assimilated, whilst never losing touch with his cockney roots. His paintings were austere, beautifully constructed (mainly still-life) and he could have made a career of it had he wished to. But he didn't have that ambition and his daily job continued to be with London Underground. Until he took up photography...


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Burial of Mickey Mouse: still Part 21 (All about T)

I'd never met anyone like T before. He was a cockney lad and proud of it, sometimes playing up the nasal twang for effect even though he could do 'proper' English when he wanted to. He had been asked by the BBC to record a series of radio broadcasts about his working-class London boyhood because he described it with such humour and authenticity. The broadcasts were made before I knew him but I was given a tape of some of them and have chosen an extract to share. In case you have trouble understanding the cockney pronunciation, think Michael Caine and you'll get it. The talk starts after a short silence.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Burial of Mickey Mouse: Part 21 continued

The present gets in the way of talking about the past. I want to be truthful but this gets in the way too - how much truth is enough truth? I'm looking at my past with present eyes and they see differently from what they saw then. I could simply copy my diaries, chronologically dipping into the big pile of red or black notebooks in which I obsessively recorded every fluctuation of emotion like a weather log but that would be too embarassingly confessional. So, I'm trying to stick to the story.

Once settled in my Hampstead room, I got in touch with a young English poet I'd met in Rome months earlier. He had been with a girlfriend, I with my husband, and the four of us explored some Roman markets together. The poet and I had exchanged glances, nothing more. But, you know, messages can be morse-coded by the eyes alone and there was no mistaking the erotic charge that flickered between us. Thus, meeting up in London on the pretense of "having a drink" inevitably extended into dinner then into bed then into one of those things, one of those bells which now and then ring, just one of those crazy flings. The poet had broken off with his previous girlfriend but neither of us was interested in committment anyway. We spent long weekends making love in my room, walking in the park, going to parties at literary friends of his and talking. Unlike my silent husband, the poet was a talker, a maker of well-turned phrases, and this was a novelty, especially since many of his fine phrases were about me. I was not in love but flattered, my confidence boosted. It lasted on and off for a couple of months and then we drifted apart as easily as we had drifted together. Other eyes were now holding mine.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Autobiography continues

The Burial of Mickey Mouse: Part 21

London, November. Autum leaves on the ground and I'm back to the single life with all its possibilities and all its fears. I have no money, I'm confused, sad, curious, excited. I gravitate towards Hampstead since I have a few friends there and I find a cheap bed-sitter in the neighbourhood of Swiss Cottage. Coin-meter for electricity, small gas fire to huddle in front of, shared bathroom down the hall. Here's an extract from my diary:

I wake up in a new room. Faded sepia wallpaper stained with strangers' stains, greasy cooking fingers, hair inexplicably stuck to the wall, remnants of strangers' lives hiding in bottom drawers, blonde hairpins, strangers' dust to be swept out and replaced by my dust. An English room, London room, Hampstead room, silent as the grave, grey birds perched on grey branches against the grey sky, melancholy with an un-modern sadness, a monochrome sadness, a romantic, barrel-organ kind of sound. And me, Natalie, in this room, far from my origins, gone the Paraguayan sun, the Mediterranean sun, the American assurance and all my busy kin-folk, gone the man that was my husband - was I ever married? Gone my childish games with God, building blocks for temples, all gone. Only myself and the room and my clock-ticking brain still caught in its routine convolutions, performing its trained seal tricks over and over again, slowing down now, aware that the audience is no longer watching.
I wish I could be swept by a monsoon wind, released from my hold on the everyday, taken over by vastness, by rage - not somebody else's, my own. Great white expanses of canvas upon which to imprison my vision now, not the next day but now, forget words rooms places faces upstairs downstairs receipts lists plans landladies jobs groceries clocks shampoo lipstick mirrors kisses heels clicking down the street the past the future the whole kitchen sink of it, overturn the table and really get going, crack the whip and watch the thundering hooves come charging in at my command and line themselves up for my brush.

MORE and video

Friday, May 16, 2008


does everything take much longer than it used to?

Or is it just that I don't recall how long everything actually took in the vague time-scale implied by "used to"? Or am I really losing brain cells in the so-called normal process of ageing? Pah, my brain cells, the last time I counted, are all there. Like my shoes. I occasionally get rid of the ones that are of no use to me anymore but I suppose it's possible that I accidentally threw out some that still had a purpose.

How do I know that I can still fire on all cylinders? Because if you ask me to do something specific - say, to find the cheapest overland way to get to, um, Glockamorra, and all the people there named Joe or Josephine who will put you up and cook a fabulous breakfast - I'll be on the task instantly and you'll get an answer within 24 hours. Or, if you ask me to find the meaning of life it might take me a few days to check the experts' answers and then to get through on the hot line to the Divine Tee-Shirted One but, for sure, I'll get the job done pretty sharpish. (Don't ask me, okay? I'm really busy trying to catch up with other things).

Obviously my statement: everything takes longer than it used to is inaccurate. What takes me longer (than I want it to take) are the tasks that I set myself. They take a long time because I make huge demands on myself and then get frightened that I can't meet them as well and as fast as I think I should and so I delay and delay and delay completion because to complete means to expose....blah blah blah and ho ho hum. Same old same old boring perfectionist syndrome......gahhhhh! That's it. Enough. I'm throwing out the perfectionist cells in my brain. I will train myself to do something badly and fast every day. Yes! Bad and fast, way to go.

Above is a fast but not too bad face I did in a trial version of Corel Painter (they let you try it free for 90 days). I should have chapter 21 of the autobio ready in a couple more days. Maybe.

Changing the subject, I must mention Cynthia Korzekwa's wonderful book art for housewives (arte per massaie) which she sent me, swapped for my The Joy of Letting Women Down. I've long been a fan of her blog and we had planned to meet during my recent stay in Rome but my time was too short so we only spoke on the phone. Cynthia's been living in Italy for the past twenty years but is from Texas. The book (in Italian, with English translation at the end) consists of her bold, bright, funny and beautifully designed illustrations with quirky captions such as: "she sewed herself", "she collected rain for her friends" along with light-hearted instructions for how to rescue all sorts of usually discarded household items and turn them into attractive, fun and useful artefacts. You can order the book from her and you don't have to be a housewife or househusband to enjoy using it. In her words:

Bricolage is a creative response to changing conditions which recycles elements to adapt
to their new circumstances.
Thus bricolage is, in some ways, a form of evolution. It assembles and constructs that
which is needed from that which is available.


Thursday, May 08, 2008


Is this the shoe wardrobe of a mature, cosmopolitan, world-travelled lady artist? Or the rejects of a clueless twelve-year old? I'm afraid it's my shoe collection, all of it, apart from the Birkenstock sandals I'm wearing. Those flower-patterned booties are a recent demented addition. The grown-up black boots at the back are those I wore once to the Guardian party and will never wear again. Likewise the brown mettallic-sheen lace-up ankle boots (top left)which I bought, expensively, in Paris on another demented impulse three years ago and wore twice (they make my feet look enormous and take forever to put on and take off).

It's the weather, you see. The sun has finally come out and with it, the seasonal urge to clear everything out and start again. I'm sure there is some deep Freudian reason for the shoe choices of my life but I'm damned if I know what it is. Maybe y'all can enlighten me?

Meanwhile, I'm preparing the next installment of the autobio as some kind of multi-media thing.


Sunday, May 04, 2008


 A billowing tarpaulin over a scaffold on which men are working. The movement of the wind rippling the fabric inspired me to video this  impromptu performance and to compose a soundtrack for it.

Friday, May 02, 2008


At the same height as my top floor windows, men are at work on a scaffold erected on the side of a house directly opposite. I have to keep the blinds drawn most of the time so that I'm not on display but I've been doing a bit of spying myself, camera in hand, because of the fabulous spectacle presented by a draped tarpaulin, blowing in the wind. Isn't billowing wonderful?

The video should be appearing any minute but you can go see it on Blaugustine right now.