When The Artist and I became an item, I was living in a one bedroomed cottage on the outskirts of Plymouth. Although it was only supposed to be a temporary stop-gap, bought in panic when my first marriage ended, I loved that house-for-one. It was cute and quirky and the long, enclosed back garden made up for the lack of space inside.
I lived there alone, for quite a while, nursing my broken heart and coming to terms with the harsh reality of being single again, in my early forties. I’d married at nineteen, given birth to my son eleven months later and my daughter nearly four years after that. Having been a wife and mother for more than twenty years, I was suddenly adrift. But that tiny terraced house helped anchor me, it’s stout stone walls providing sanctuary; a safe place to weep and wail, to heal my hurts, to play my kind of music, to dance and sing. To reclaim my life.
I met The Artist early on, as a friend of a friend – but we lost touch when he went to Art College in Cornwall. It wasn’t until his course had finished and he moved back to Plymouth, that we met up socially, gradually becoming more and more involved. Reluctant to surrender my newly established freedom, I didn’t invite him to move in, until it became impractical for him not to.
It was a tight squeeze. In fact, we looked around for somewhere larger, where we could start afresh. But nothing had the same ‘wow factor’, that made this house so special. So we streamlined our possessions, gave unwanted stuff away and stored our ‘treasures’ in the attic.
By now I’d established a late-blooming career in Social Housing. The Artist was self-employed, working on commission and in community projects, while extending his own portfolio. This suited us – I found my full-time, busy job exciting; he focused on his painting and kept the home fires burning (albeit with fake gas logs!)
I’d bought the previous owner’s furniture and hadn’t changed it. So we decorated; bought a new bed, a sofa and a leather chair, hung Martin’s artwork on the walls – and transformed that heartbreak house into our first home.
And here it is:
VOS#3: BUTT PARK
The title of this painting is derived from our address. People sniggered when we told them it was ‘Butt Park Road’ – in a modern context, I suppose it is amusing. But the ‘butt park’ didn’t refer to my comfy armchair. In days of yore, every man was required, by law, to practice archery once a week – so that, if needed, they could be called upon to defend the Realm. And Butt Park – the common ground at the bottom of the road – was where the mediaeval locals did this.
Standing across the road at first and at the end of the garden later, The Artist roughed out the images in pencil. Then he came inside and rendered them in pen and ink and watercolour; blending top with bottom, front with rear to capture a complete picture of our quaint old cottage.
Every time I look at it, I laugh. There are so many fine details – the tiled roof, the old net curtains, the milk bottle on the doorstep, washing swaying on the line, (including my big knickers!), the neighbour’s cats. This is not simply a brilliant painting. It’s a perfect reminder of where and how we started out.
We loved living together, in Butt Park Road.
Although this is a retro piece, Martin has digitally super-imposed his logo. Can you spot it!
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