IN SEARCH OF A TRIBE
SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE (circa 2014)
At this point, I do not want to cover the years leading up to my eye operations or the time I spent in Harrow. I do, however, think it is quite important to show you this photograph. It is of the one and only original painting I managed to complete between 2013 and 2016 and perhaps conveys my inner turmoil. I am, of course, the frog, swimming madly against the swirling waters of the river. Just as the frog sought the lily, which eluded him constantly, I sought happiness which I could not reach. When once my eye operations were complete, I overpainted the poorly painted design and gave it to my daughter-in-law, as she said she liked it. I am not sure if she understood the meaning behind the design, as we never discussed it. I did paint one other painting in this period, which was a reasonably creditable copy of a very famous Monet. Its impressionistic style leant itself to my very sketchy vision and it hangs, at present, in my bedroom for I love it dearly.
The gift of sight is a wondrous thing and by mid-2017, mine was restored to a level which allowed me to paint properly once more. I felt like a child with a new toy and despite the fact of another huge emotional disappointment, I saw a future ahead of me.
Many hours and days of soul searching brought me to the conclusion that I must seek out a tribe. The human race was created to live with others of its kind and I am no exception to this rule. I lost my own tribe in 1999, for reasons which I will not go into, apart from to tell you that my life decisions offended those that mattered to me. I was faced with making a choice of ‘this’ or ‘that’ and I chose ‘this’, which lost me an entire family network. The shock and bereavement that followed was intense. Several years later I managed to re-connect with my youngest son and he and I now have a reasonably functional relationship. I see him three or four times a year along with his lovely wife and two beautiful children and it goes without saying that I love them dearly, as they love me. However, they have their own family network which often cannot include me, due to the family rift, thereby leaving me with the feeling of being without roots, with no strings attached and more often than not, being entirely alone.
A tribe must be sought, but where would I find such a thing? The answer came to me in the middle of an October night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep. For hundreds of years, my ancestors had been born and bred in Dorset. My Grandparents were Portland folk, my Mother too. I had been christened on the island and spent every holiday throughout my childhood with my Grandmother, first on Portland and later in Weymouth. I had many, many happy memories and knew the area like the back of my hand. In my late twenties I moved from Sussex to the island, with my children, who both adored the rugged cliffs and rocks, spectacular scenery and quaint customs, as much as I did. We stayed in the area until the boys were in their teens, when fate took us back to Brighton. I may have no contact with my family, but my roots were still intact and lay sleeping on that little isthmus named Portland, along with my memories, which were mine to keep and would never be taken from me.
A couple of days later, I was on the road. I had booked a room in a Weymouth Guest House, a few steps from the beach and suddenly life had a meaning. It was completely out of character for me, at that time, to make such a bold move, but it felt so right. I had no fear. I knew where I was going. I was going home. To the sea. To my beloved Dorset, where I belonged.
I stayed in Weymouth for three or four days and divided my time between searching for a place to live and re-visiting old haunts. It was wonderful. The salts of the sea were in the air, my cheeks grew ruddy and my eyes shone. By day I was full of energy and vitality and at night I slept like a baby. I found a tiny little flat for rent in Weymouth, not far from the beach, not far from the town and literally around the corner from my Grandmother’s house. And last but not least, there was an indoor Lawnbowls Club less than ten minutes away. I felt thoroughly and utterly comfortable and for the first time in years, I knew I was in the right place. My decision was made. I would move before Christmas which was a little more than a month away……..