This epiphany came to me yesterday when I went down to Port Stanley to remove my work from the gallery that invited me to join them two years ago and display my work. It was my decision to leave.
It was actually a very sad day as I love the gallery, and they have worked hard at promoting me and my work, but, it was difficult to sell. Not because it wasn't nice, it was textile work, and people always look at it differently to a painting. My postcards, 4x6 fabric "paintings" sold hand over fist, to the extent that I couldn't keep up with the demand, it was the bigger pieces that were the problem. As one of the partners said, and I have to agree, people see a painting and it is Art, they look at something I made.........it's a craft so why is it expensive? (And she wasn't belittling what I do by calling it a craft, that's how other people see it).
However, in the old cliche, it did make me realize I was rich in other areas, (oh no, now she's going to go all gooey on us and talk about how wonderful life is blah, blah, blah.......). Actually no, well, maybe a little bit, but maybe not in the way you are thinking.
When we landed in Canada 11 years ago, we stayed with my brother while we went house hunting. Luckily it wasn't too long until we found this place and then not too long until we moved into it. I remember how it felt to get the keys to the house and to walk into it thinking that this was it, the husband and I had left South Croydon, end of terrace, and here we are, a raised Ranch on almost two acres, we certainly have room to breathe!!
It was at least two months or more before we met our neighbours, Murray and Connie. Their house is maybe 100 yards from ours with no fence between, but we hadn't walked across to say hello, as we were too busy decorating and getting the furniture organized. Our neighbour the other side, Kevin, had been across to say hello the day we moved in, but we had no idea what the other neighbours were like. I had been told by the people we bought from that they were lovely, but that was it. So, there I am, out on the lawn tractor, concentrating on what I'm doing when I look up to see this man standing there smiling at me. I nearly fell off the thing as I was surprised to see someone, but managed to stop and say hello.
It was then, I think, almost another month before I met Connie. We were having a housewarming so I thought I should invite everyone in the near vicinity. She duly arrived with four children in tow, which thrilled the husband-he's never been terribly fond of children.
Well, as I said it's 11 years now, a fifth child appeared and we and they treat each other as family. I'm lucky to live next door to one of my best friends. The children are an absolute delight to me-the husband has a different view point-the two eldest are now 24 and 21, and then the youngsters are 13, 12 and 9. I'm probably closer to these three as they have grown up with me, and quite early on I would look after them if Mum or Dad were working, it just seemed the most natural thing to do, and today the houses are interchangeable, our door is always open as is theirs, and there is never a feeling that you weren't invited or not welcome.
The three terrors with Dad at Christmas time at our place
Unger (9 yrs old) "Hi Cynthia, why are you here?'
Me "We're going out with Mum and Dad"
U "Oh you're going to? So why are you here?"
Me "We've come for supper"
Moving up stairs (don't ask, the layout of their house is a little different)
Oliver " Hi Cynthia, what are you doing here?"
Me "Hi Ols, I've decided I don't like living in my house any more so I'm moving in".
And with that, he just turned and walked away as if it was the most natural thing in the world, it wouldn't phase any of them if I did, hmm,... maybe I should think about it.
I have a lot of fun with the three of them. They know I don't buy toys for Christmas and Birthdays, never have and never will. Any gift they get from me is art related, or I will take them out for the day, and Christmas is the only time of the year I get to go clothes shopping for them.
Ivey knew I was going to England for the Festival of Quilts last August, so assumed I would be doing some Christmas shopping. Could I possibly go for skirts this year? She has enough skinny jeans etc,. I dutifully shopped for skirts, they were a little thin on the ground, but I did find some in Fat Face, and some lovely tops there and in Monsoon. Clothes shopping here for her age group is pretty hard to do, and they do dress differently to kids in the UK, Connie and I have very definite ideas about how she should dress, her mother is very classy and always looks lovely, so Ivey is happy for us to shop for her. I am dreading her 16th birthday. When her elder sister Emily, was 16, I took her to the UK for a holiday. It's something that is in Ivey's head often, with many a conversation starting, "when you take me to England when I'm sixteen.........." I just hope she saves enough money to bolster the UK clothing economy.
(Beware of coming to visit me, I will give you a list of clothing to be brought from Primark, (good for the boys), Monsoon, M&S and other favourites).
It also reminded me of another shopping trip I had with Heather. She came over from Northern Ireland one half term with her youngest, Hannah, (who is now well into her 20's). We had the week all planned out and we had decided that we would take her up to London and "do" the town. We get down to East Croydon station, and pretty much straight onto a train, a lot of people had got off, and then we sat there.... and sat there. Eventually, those who had got off got back on, and I was fretting as it was cutting into valuable shopping time. So we continued sitting there. People started chatting to each other, as you do, and there were the three of us, and two businessmen sitting opposite. We didn't say too much but smiled politely, it was then that one of them said, "So, what are you girls going to do in London?", to which we replied, pointing at Hannah, "We're going to teach her how to shop!" You have never seen two grown men with fear in their eyes go absolutely white as sheets and think to themselves how lucky they were not to be married to either of us. The train eventually left, and twenty minutes later we got out at Victoria station and our day could begin in earnest.
We took Hannah everywhere, Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Bond St- I never said our tastes weren't expensive- until we finally pitched up for afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason. It was always a joy to have tea there and that day was no exception, afterwards we had a wander around the store. Back then, it was very much more fashion oriented than it is now, and they had a lovely shoe department. Dear reader, if you have read my posts before, you will know that I LOVE shoes, I really should go to rehab, but since moving here, my shoe buying has been curtailed as the quality is not the same, remember I'm a leather shoe girl, soles uppers, inners, the smell of leather can't be beaten- sorry if you don't believe in it- and the fit as they caress and mould to your foot is a joy. My mother always bought Swiss Bally, they didn't come any better than that 40 something years ago. Here they don't do leather soles, the uppers maybe, so the shoe is hard and jolly uncomfortable.
Anyway, I digress. There we are in the shoe department, and I found a lovely pair of summer shoes, beautiful colour and style, I try them on, perfect! Thank you , I'll take them, (they were not a horrendous price in case you're wondering), the assistant asked if I would like the matching handbag, no thanks I don't think so, Heather was looking at shoes and Hannah was following all this very intently. The assistant again asked if I wanted the bag and again I said no thanks, it was at this point that Hannah, quite exasperated, said, "if you don't buy the bag that goes with the shoes, how am I ever going to learn how to shop???" At which the whole department staff and other customers, collapsed with laughter.
I am also lucky to have a lovely husband who never questions what I buy. I had to go into town the other day, I had computer issues, they were quickly sorted, and then I had the rest of the day to myself. Living out in the country, you tend to make the most of any shopping trip to the big city, (London Ontario pop 367,000), so the one thing I did want was a pair of shoes for Zumba. so I wandered the mall and stopped at one of the shoe stores........ and ended up buying two pairs, neither of which are suitable for Zumba but just gorgeous.
I eventually get home and tell the husband about my day, fess up to buying two pairs of shoes, to which he just smiles indulgently, and says, "It's been a long time since you bought any" and pours me a glass of wine!
And in case you're wondering, I did get my Zumba shoes too................