Whilst I cycled around San Francisco picking up odd jobs where I could find them, she was at home painting and drawing on commission for a group of artists that she’d fallen in with. In between jobs, when I could find the time, I would return back to our studio apartment and eat lunch with her, looking out over the golden suburban hills of the city whilst we discussed our futures.
Unfortunately our planning was about to be put to a halt, as word had got out about mop-haired Englishman picking up tax-free income all across town. One day he could be seen clearing tables at a filthy club, the next day he’d be juggling for the amusement of families in Golden Gate Park and on the weekend he was spinning signs with a bleary eye and sketching iffy caricatures for confused tourists. He thought no one had cared about his little side-gigs, unfortunately someone had taken notice – the IRS.
A stern letter informed me one day that I had 7 days to set my affairs in order and then leave the USA. Although I wasn’t barred from re-entering the country, it was suggested that I would be wise not to return for at least 10 years. My Summer of Love had come to an abrupt end. I could do nothing but book my flight home, bid farewell to my various employers and, worst of all, Rita who had did not have the money or the inclination to follow me back to the UK. Her travelling days were behind her and I knew that her heart belonged in San Francisco and not with me.
When I touched down in London, all but penniless and heartbroken, the clouds were fit to burst and I felt that the time had come for me to return to my art. A distant uncle, hearing of my plight, got in touch with me and promised me free board at his holiday home in the North of England. I imagined a dismal smoke-filled sky, grubby faced children and a hard done by working class then accepted his offer.
Before I left for America I knew that my uncle had been looking to buy a residential park home in Lancashire. A holiday home had long been his dream, a place where he could vacation in during the summers and eventually retire to when he was old enough. He’d found his ‘slice of heaven’, as he liked to call it, in Mowbreck Park. This residential caravan park was set in a quiet corner of Lancashire and was certainly a far cry from my last home. Instead of the rumble of the streetcars I was woken by the distant cry of gulls. Despite this huge change in environment, I would still find myself reaching over for Rita each morning only to be brought back to earth with the realisation that she was half a world away…
We’re obsessed with looking back at our ‘glory days’ and obsessing over how wonderful our lives were back then.
Whilst a certain amount of retrospection is certainly conducive to the development of self-awareness, indulging too much in this past-time can lead to an unhealthy obsession with the past and a worrying case of ‘rose-tinted’ glasses.
Despite these niggles, I’ve decided to take retrospective look at my journey thus far in both the world of art, as well as my personal development as a human being in order to better introduce you, the reader, to me.
Life began for me, as it must do for many, in my mother’s womb. I don’t remember much of my time there, in fact I remember nothing at all. My first memories are of Mother stroking my hair as I was put to sleep in a bed for the very first time. I must have been 2 at the time, but I can still recall the sensation of slowly falling asleep whilst gazing at the ceiling of my bedroom. It was decorated as a clear blue sky with a few dots of clouds skimming across the horizon.
My journey as an artist began with one bold prod of a pudgy finger into a shiny ball of acrylic paint. Red has been my favourite colour for as long as I remember and I’ve aged I’ve only grown more fascinated with this seductive, alluring tone. My first foray into fine art was a self-portrait, I’m lucky enough to still own it, although I doubt it’ll be selling for a good price any time soon…The portrait is framed in pride of place in my bathroom, my abstract scrawl sternly gazing down at anyone choosing to take a seat on my throne.
It wasn’t until I reached the age of 9 that I started to take a concerted interest in the act of creating. I’d become enthralled with the sculpting and had deplored my Mother to give me just a small handful of clay so that I start working on my first pieces. Initially she refused, stating that the mess would be too great, but after much prostrating I was granted 5kg of the stuff and even given a little corner of the kitchen with which to begin my work.
I obsessed over sculpture for the majority of my youth. I loved the moist feel of the wet clay betwixt my hands made me feel like a God, quite a feeling to come to terms with considering I was only 11 years old. When I arrived at art school I felt that I was already head and shoulders above my class mates. They clumsily thumbed their way through their sculptures whilst I was intent on creating a masterpiece, however my life was about to take a turn that I had not expected at that point.
I met my first and only wife Rita whilst joyously bouncing through a mosh pit at an underground punk night in London. We bumped, jostled and smashed into each other’s arms that night and have never managed to untangle ourselves since, something which I’m rather glad of. Up until that point I’d considered myself a loner, someone destined to purse his artistic dreams but never his romantic ones. When our lives became entwined in the summer of 1979 my life was irreversibly changed.