Slade Summer School – Day 5

I wanted to buy something with my debit card today, but the fella in the shop said I had to spend £5 to do so; so, I grabbed the first thing I saw – a huge bag of giant chocolate buttons. Of course, I am now in the unfortunate predicament of not wanting to pack them in my suitcase tomorrow, as they’ll get squished; which means, I’ll have to eat them all tonight. It’s going to be a struggle, because I am actually full up; as I have just got home from a dinner at West London Synagogue. I went to the Shabbat Service first, which was beautiful. I had the sensation of lying down in a fragrant meadow on a warm summer’s day; it was peaceful and very relaxing.

West London Synagogue

West London Synagogue

The dinner was amazing. Firstly, I sat next to two lovely people; they were both very interesting and seemed to think I was too. To my right was a lovely man called Stanley; we had a great chat about lots of things. To my left was Lin, who was also lovely; both she and Stanley’s wife gave me some excellent art advice, which I wrote down and felt very fortunate to receive. Oh, and the food was gorgeous, thanks to the French chef.

The speaker for the evening was Hannah Rothschild – writer, film maker, chairwoman of the National Art Gallery and very down to earth and funny. I was completely mesmerised by her talk – it was so interesting. She has recently published her second book, called: The Improbability of Love. It is set in the art world and involves a stolen painting.

Hannah Rothschild

Hannah Rothschild

After the Dinner, I walked back to Bloomsbury (the Synagogue is in Marble Arch), which meant walking the length of Oxford Street. What an eye opener. It was very busy and there were lots of sights to see. The strangest were the Selfridge window displays, which had mannequins that had eyebrows, but no eyes.

Selfridge window display

Selfridge window display

Just as I was nearing my residence, I was thinking how much I would like to read Hannah’s book and, at that very moment, a bookshop appeared; remarkably, it was still open even though it was getting late. I went in and asked if they had the book. Not only did they have it, but the shop guy told me he had just read it and LOVED it! I told him all about my dinner, which he thought was cool.

 I was funny that should hear a talk from the chairwoman of the National Gallery this evening, as that is where our class spent the morning. What a beautiful place! The coolest thing I saw was, Van Eyck’s, Arnolfini Wedding. It’s a painting that is in every art book, and is therefore, very familiar; indeed, it’s like when you see a celebrity and for a split second you think they’re an old friend.

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolphini Wedding, 1434

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolphini Wedding, 1434

Even cooler than the Arnolfini’s Wedding painting, was what was outside the gallery.


I still can’t figure out how he was doing it.

After the Gallery, we went back to the studio and worked on our pictures, then had some wine and wandered around the school to look at everyone else’s work. I really enjoyed looking our wander – some of the work was exceptional; also, I bumped into a lady who was on the same course as me last year, so it was great to catch up.

Slade studio tour

Slade studio tour

All in all, the course was amazing. I loved the picture that popped out of me; even though it’s not perfect and there’s things I would change, it has given me great inspiration for a new type of picture I want to make.

Of course, one of the best things about the course was meeting Lindsay. It was sad to say goodbye to her; but, who knows, we may meet again…hopefully next year at the Slade.

Summer School – Day 4

London is VERY expensive. Lucky for me, my lovely brother sent me this text:

Just transferred £15 to your account for you to have a treat!! Whisky, takeaway, book, very cheap stripper, you choose.

I dread to think what kind of fella would be willing to take his clothes off for me for £15; what I do know is, these days, he’s unlikely to do it for free

The thing I’ve found most expensive is food; until, that is, I found a shop down the road selling 3 packets of Jammie Dodgers for £1 – which is pretty good considering they only expired 3 days ago. Now, I realise a girl can’t live on Jammie Dodgers alone; so, never fear, I also have some Fish Oil caps infused with Vitamin D, so my hair will be shiny and I won’t get Rickets.



The other thing about London is it’s filled with possibilities. For example, my evening ended with an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony on a rooftop in Marble Arch. But I’m getting ahead of myself; first I had a day at Summer School.

This morning we made collages in honour of Matisse. I love Matisse – as much for his art as for the man himself. He was gentle and refined and devoted to his wife and children. This is in complete contrast to his artistic contemporary and rival, Picasso; who, while an incredible artist, was a dirty rotten scoundrel when it came to women and a deadbeat Dad to his children.

A creator to the end.

Matisse – a creator to the end.

Matisse took art seriously and was relentless in his pursuit of artistic excellence all his life. Even towards the end of it – when his eyesight was failing and he could no longer paint – he spent his days cutting up bits of coloured paper and made pictures that way. The results were further evidence that he was, indeed, an artistic genius; a fact even Picasso admitted to, when he said of him:

 “There is only Matisse.”

So, that’s what we spent our morning doing – cutting up bits of coloured paper and making pictures out of them. Here is my effort:


Not quite a Matisse, but you get the idea.

We then spent the afternoon at the British Museum. We went there to look at some collages by a Lady called Mary Delaney, who made these amazing flower pictures with cut-out bits of paper. They were very  impressive, especially since she only began making them in her 60’s. Her goal was to make 1000 before she died. Unfortunately, she pegged out at 980.

Mary Delaney's exquisite work.

Mary Delaney’s exquisite work.

After that, we could wander around the Museum and look at whatever we wanted. I didn’t want to look at anything, as there were about 5 million people in there. As I made my way to the front exit, I noticed a little room on the left hand-side that had a huge lyre hanging in it. I decided to have a wee look and, by some miracle I was the only one in there.  As I stood before the Lyre, I heard the most beautiful tinkling sound, which turned out to be the jingling of all the little trinkets hanging on it, which had been put there by the owner to appease the spirits.

Zar Lyre

Zar Lyre

It turned out, it was a very special sort of Lyre, used in Zar ceremonies in the Sudan. Although played by men, a Zar ceremony is for women – a kind of healing/exorcism type rite. A possessed woman is helped by a priestess known as a Shaykha and is placed in a trance by the Lyre playing. Once in the trance, the woman then engages in activities that are usually forbidden: i.e. dancing wildly, dressing in men’s clothing and acting aggressively towards men – giving them a piece of her mind. Understandably, it is a very popular ceremony, despite both Christianity and Islam trying to stamp in out.

On my way back to the Hall of Residence, I had the good fortunate to find the house where the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed. The Pre-Raphaelites (pictured below) were a trio of renegade painter/poets in the mid 1800’s. They favoured lush, colour saturated paintings, with lots of detail and complex compositions, which predated Raphael and the rigorous, academic art that followed him.

The Pre-Raphaelites - William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

According to Wikipedia, the Brotherhood was founded on 4 core principles:

1. Have genuine ideas to express;

2. Study Nature attentively, to know how to express them;

3. Sympathise with what is direct, serious and heartfelt  in previous art.

4. Produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Once back at the Hall, I had a quick tidy up of my shambled self and headed off to West London Synagogue. I am taking a course there that I usually do by Skype, but seeing I am in London I was able to attend in person. As always, the lesson was brilliant – thanks to the very knowledgeable, Rabbi Sybil. Afterwards, I attended a party on the roof of the Synagogue, where there was great music, delicious food and lovely people. The highlight of the evening was an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony performed by Rabbi Sybil.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

All and all it was a wonderful day. Indeed, the best so far!

London Baby!

The average cost of a Hotel in Central London is £120 per night; so you can imagine my delight when I found one for £65. Even flashed up a message saying: Congratulations Rebecca, you’ve found a bargain. Judging by the reviews, bargain is Hotel-speak for fleapit: Worst Hotel Ever…Stay Away…Mice and No Heating. Argh, they’re probably just whingers, I reasoned; besides, it was London and I was on a shoestring and, as the trip drew nearer, that shoestring kept getting shorter, so the Fleapit it would have to be!


I decided the best thing to do was prepay all my food and travel costs and then see what was left for entertainment, sightseeing and shopping; turns out there was £10. Never mind, I was only in London for one night and then I was heading to my sister’s in Cambridgeshire. I thought everything was in hand until I realised I hadn’t bought a train ticket to my sisters – a distance which, according to Google Maps, would take me 22hrs and 9mins to walk. Thankfully my funds increased at the 11th hour and I was spared a stroll up the M11.


Despite the extra funds, I decided to stick to the shoestring tour I’d originally planned; mostly because I had gone to some effort in figuring it out; plus, I tend to get muddle with last-minute changes. First on the agenda was walking from Victoria Station to my Hotel…which included a detour through Hyde Park. Turns out, distances in London are greater than they appeared in my iddy biddy map…it took me flippin ages. I had envisaged a pleasant jaunt in the park, along tree-lined avenues with horses trotting by. I did see trees and a whole lot of dung…but, to be honest, the park was looking rather tatty. None the less, I made it from one end to the other, stopping at Speakers Corner to listen to the nut-jobs and eat the Vegemite sandwich I’d brought with me.


Unfortunately, the nut-jobs were no where to be found; but that was OK, because I couldn’t dilly dally. I was on route to my selected sightseeing attraction – indeed I was so pushed for time, I had to take my suitcase with me. Where was I headed? The Anaesthetic Museum – which had the primary attraction of being free. Now, take a tip from me…if a museum is free…it’s because it wouldn’t be fair to charge. That being said, if learning about the history of knocking people out so you can rummage about in their bodies, is your idea of a good time…then the Anaesthetic Museum is the place for you. To be fair it was very interesting and the display was excellent. Though it does seem that the development of Anaesthetics – and probably Medicine in general – is based on the principle of having a go.

museum My epic walk and dubious choice of attraction wasn’t the worst of it; I was a shambles. Firstly, my hair, in desperate need of a cut, had me looking like Sideshow Bob; I was wearing Ma’s hand-me-down coat; my shoes – also Ma’s cast offs – gave me blisters; I had a huge pimple on my chin (I felt secure in the thought that people might not see it, until I Facetimed my brother and he said “Holy Sh*t, what’s that on your chin?”) which, when I tried fixing it, turned into a scab; and, if that wasn’t enough, I had a sore tongue – I can only assume I had eaten something in my sleep and bitten my tongue in the process – the upshot being it hurt when I talked and, being swollen, I had trouble saying my th’s. So there I was hobbling along, bushy haired, dressed like my mother, with a scabby face and a speech impediment…London Baby!!!

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Barely able to walk, I eventually arrived at my Hotel. True it wasn’t the Ritz…but it was certainly in keeping with its 3 Stars emblazoned over the door. Than man on the desk was very welcoming and the 1970’s paintings were a nice touch. My room, though petite, was a welcome sight…and casting off my blister inducing shoes, heaven. Again there was no dallying to be done, as I had somewhere important to be. Unfortunately that meant putting the shoes back on – which I did begrudgingly…though not before I swathed my feet in plasters and extra socks.


All set, I hobbled off to the purpose of my trip: A Shabbat Dinner at West London Synagogue – with guest speaker Eva Schloss MBE. First there was a Shabbat Service; I had watched services on-line before – but it is nothing compared to actually being there. Missing from the online format is the breath-taking splendour of the Synagogue and warmth of the people. The dinner afterwards was wonderful; I sat next to interesting people and the food and wine were delicious.


The highlight of the evening was listening to Eva Schloss speak. Eva is a Holocaust survivor and author of a number of books about her experience. She tirelessly visits schools to share her story and teach children the importance of tolerance. She is warm, pragmatic and has an indomitable spirit – qualities that come across both in person and in her writing. It was an absolute privilege to hear her speak. She was only 15 when she was interred in Auschwitz, where she witnessed and experienced unimaginable horrors and suffered the most appalling loses – yet she and her beautiful spirit survived; as did her Mother – who, after the war, married Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank. I am currently reading her seminal work Eva’s Story – which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject.


With a full stomach and sated spirit, I barely felt my blistered feet as I tottered back to my hotel; and, although the horsehair mattress felt like concrete, I was so exhausted I slept like a log. The next morning, donning yet more plasters and more socks, I headed back to the Synagogue for the morning Service…which was beautiful; then I made my way to Kings Cross Station – this time taking the tube. The trip to my sister’s, cut by 21 hours thanks to Great Anglia Trains, was very pleasant – it seems only fancy people live in Cambridgeshire.


It was a relief to be out of London and my shoes; and a joy to spend the afternoon with my sister, drinking scotch and putting the world to rights – though, her husband Neil appeared to find the Grand Prix more illuminating. Their house, called The Bell Tower, is part of an old converted school in a village called Haddenham – and, lucky for me, I have my own room (at least I call it mine)…it’s beautifully furnished with a gorgeous bed and Netflix on the telly; plus there’s wonderful food, great booze…and Kishu the talking cat. Indeed, life at The Bell Tower is so lush I might just look for a job.