Sunday, 1 July 2012

Pah! Flamin’ June

As an artist, rather than a nine to five existence, my calendar year is marked with a series of events. As the Dowager Dutchess once famously said, “What’s a weekend?”. A highlight of this artistic calendar is to have a display stand at the Patchings Art Festival. This is like a four day holiday where we get to meet friends old and new, paint, and generally chew the fat. In recent times, what tends to follow this show is the monsoon season, which unhappily coincides with a series of outdoor painting courses… A few years back, I was asked to run a friend’s painting holiday in Northumberland. The Patchings Festival had been hot.. very hot.. the following week the skies turned black and it rained, and rained and rained… now Northumberland can be wet at the driest of times. As I drove up the A1 to Hexam, the Highways authority closed the road behind me due to a reservoir about to burst its banks. I reached my destination, a small hotel and waded through the carpark to reception. The room I was ushered into to do my teaching was as dark and depressing as one could want and was only marginally better than the cheap B&B I had booked myself into down the road. Each night I would lay in my bed listening to the rain lashing and the wind howling through the broken window, wondering which student would be the first to crack with cabin fever. Fortunately, there were some bright spells and we did get out most days where I ensured working sketches could be collected so that watercolours could be worked on in the dry albeit dark hotel dining room.

Last year saw the wind and rain arrived on the last day of the show, flooding through the marquee and running down the support posts, ruining one artist’s paintings and banging and clattering the artwork on the outer walls. Towards closing time the rain got more intense, just coinciding with the traders bringing their heavy vans up to the exit to dismantle their exhibits. Very quickly most went in up to their axles, we just managed to escape from the carpark without getting stuck. One unlucky artist had to abandon their vehicle which was consumed by the mud and declared by the insurance a write-off. The next week, I ran a painting holiday around Rutland Water. This time it was the gale force winds rather than the rain that caused the problems. The south carpark had to be abandoned as the wind blowing off the water made it impossible to even open the car doors to get out…

This year, Patchings made the unfortunate mistake of delaying the show by a week so as not to clash with the Queen’s Jubilee. The weather was unsettled right from the start the BBC started giving yellow rain warnings which sounded like something out of Cynthia Payne’s autobiography… Overly worried that they would do another Michael Fish faux pas, everything was over-egged with dire warnings of terror weather. In truth the weather was pretty good for most of the show but the BBC did seem to put a few off. Funnily enough, on one day the forecast said it was raining, yet outside the tent it was sunny! Two weeks after Patchings we have just seen one of the most horrendous storms over our village in living memory. Hailstones the size of grapefruits rained down causing untold damage to car roofs, guttering and greenhouses. This week I’m running another painting holiday in Suffolk….