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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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PARADISE REVISITED (Or You can never go home again)

 

We flew from Gatwick to Ibiza in the first week of August heavily overloaded with suitcases and bags. That was mostly my fault for I wanted to be prepared for the possibility of our spending the next year on the island. We had offers of houses from both Phillip and Bruce. I had brought clothes for every situation and climate as well as art supplies, books, music and a stereo. Fortunately, as soon as we touched down and cleared Customs, Bruce swooped in to pick us and our luggage up. He was driving a conspicuously battered Citroen with the two front lights literally scotch-taped into place following some accident that he had had. It was great to see him again and somehow reminiscent of the last time he had picked me up - at JFK Airport in New York, so many years before. We piled into the car and he whisked us away along the San Jose road to Phillip's house. I experienced an eery deja vu as the bright sunlight, the shimmering heat rising from the dusty road and the deep blue sky assaulted my eyes. Even after so many years, it was all incredibly familiar to me, the line of the hills, the rows of almond trees and the bends in the road. I recognized the very smell of the place. I've seen this movie before, I said to myself as we careered dangerously fast along the road, Bruce talking rapidly, waving his hands about and pointing details out to Catherine who was seeing Ibiza and Spain for the first time.

 

His driving hadn't changed much either, I noted, as Bruce accelerated coming out of another dangerous bend. The poor engine screamed in protest as he held it in third gear just a little too long. "Change gear, change gear, please", I was pleading in my head as Bruce finally rammed the gear stick home into top gear. As my jangled nerves settled back down again, I realized in fact that nothing seemed to have changed too radically in ten years. There were a lot more low cinder block fincas along the road and all the tiendas seemed to have grown in size. As we spun into the road leading up to Phillip's house high on top of the hill, we passed the almond tree that I'd sat underneath for shelter against the sun a thousand times. I noted that at least this part of the road had been surfaced after all those years. Unfortunately it had only been paved for about half a mile and pretty soon the Citroen was straining and rattling as Bruce pushed it relentlessly upwards through zigzag bends and potholes towards the summit of the hill. Suddenly we were there. Phillip, alerted by the noise of Bruce's desperate driving, appeared and we were all hugging one another and commenting on the passage and ravages of time. Wasn't it fabulous to all be together again!

Phillip had done a lot of work on his house since last I saw it. It now had a large upstairs bedroom with beautiful open arched windows and a view to die for. There was a bathroom and toilet attached to the house now also and he had terraced his land and made low stone walls everywhere. Best of all, on the edge of the terrace by the house, falling away into that awesome view, he had built a water cisterna. This served as a swimming pool too and we all tore our clothes off and dived in. In that moment, I couldn't imagine getting any closer to Paradise than this. Out here in the country, the old Ibiza magic hadn't changed, or at least so it seemed that day.

We spent a wonderful first night with Phillip and Bruce, talking at the top of our voices, telling tall tales and remembering the past. The house was incredibly beautiful at night with the light from twenty candles making flickering shadows across the whitewashed walls. We sat at the long sabena wood table I remembered so well and ate vegetables out of Phillip's garden. The night was balmy and scented and after the meal we sat out on the bench in front of the view and looked down on the lights of the fincas in the valley below. I could see the car headlights along the San Jose road, the deep blue gradation of the sky and the familiar silhouette of the hills spread out below us. We were all much older and much less innocent, I thought, but here we are, still alive, still active and still out there.

Inevitably, I suppose, we eventually came back down to Earth but I enjoyed being back on the Island enormously at first. It was all terribly familiar and at the same time I experienced a constant rediscovery of views, of spaces and of the relationship between so many old memories and present reality. I had run a nonstop movie projection of Ibiza in my head all the years that I had been away in America. I have very clear visual imagery and I suppose that that had kept it fresh and alive for me. I fantasized about moving back to the island. Bruce would have loved us to live in his house and we could have had Phillip's house all to ourselves for at least half the year while he was off traveling. There was of course the problem of what we would actually do in Ibiza. I had always been able to earn a reasonable living there as an artist before and had no reason to think that I couldn't do it again. But what Catherine would do there was another issue completely. For now we were just content to look around the island again and to soak up some sun, sea and sand.

On our second day there, we walked down that steep winding path to Es Coll Des Vens directly below Phillip's house where a Spanish family now lived. It too hadn't changed much, at least not from the outside, although it somehow looked untidier and less cared for than it had ten years before. The monster creeper with those heavy yellow flowers which had always looked as if it could swallow the front porch -and half of Chicago too- still looked powerful and had maintained its tight grip on the front of the finca. The outhouses looked as if they had fallen down a little further and there was a nice new cabin cruiser boat on a trailer at the side of the house.

Bruce's house, Can Rafaela, was looking very much the worse for wear unfortunately. On one trip to the house a few years before, he had arrived on the island with lots of money and plans to make big alterations to the building. He had started to build an extra bedroom up on the roof and an outside bathroom where the goat pen was round the back. He had closed off the passageway between the kitchen and the entrada room before he had run out of money. So he had abandoned every project and gone back to New York leaving the poor house in a very transitory state. Bruce was seeing a Dutch lady called Ellie who lived down the road and would not be staying at the house. He offered us his spare bedroom. We decided to do some work on the house and move in there when we could.

We all spend an ecstatic week, naked in the bright heat of August, repainting the house with many layers of whitewash, cleaning it out, clearing out the overgrown flowerbeds and ordering the kitchen. In between coats of paint, Bruce drove us all over the island, into Ibiza town, to Santa Eulalia and to the beach. I saw a lot of old friends like Lance and Patsy, now rich and established on the island and seemingly a long way from the precarious existence that I remembered them living in the Seventies. Robin and Janna were still there and I ran into Lou whom I'd last seen in California when I lived in Grass Valley. Lydia and Peggy were still in Ibiza, both quite unchanged and Bruce took us to Sandy's Bar in Santa Eulalia where I saw Denholm Elliott, the actor and a lot of other familiar faces. It was a wonderful trip down Memory Lane but I couldn't help thinking that most of the really exciting and creative people from the old days had packed up and moved on. Most people still living there seemed to have settled into a rather sedate and decadent sort of lifestyle. There was a lot of drinking and drugging going on and probably there always had been. But we had all been a lot younger and more active when I had lived there and the energy had been better. I thought that our actions had been more directed and somehow clearer. At least that was how I remembered the past and how I perceived the present. Since leaving the island so precipitously so long before, I had lived another lifetime -or several- and I had a perspective on the life there that I didn't have before. I felt a little alien and alienated and didn't know who I wanted to spend time with and what I wanted to do there.

None of which stopped me from unpacking all our bags and settling into country life somewhere between Bruce's house and Phillip's entrada. I thought that living in the country up on top of our hill with two of my dearest, oldest friends was absolutely wonderful. There was nowhere else that I wanted to be at that moment.

One of my first visits was to see Marie Luz who was living on the land that she and I had bought together up above Bruce's house. Memories of our life together came flooding back as I climbed the steep path that went straight up the hill from Bruce's road. I turned sharply to the right and walked along to the terraces that we had chosen together so carefully. They were as lovely as I had always pictured them in my head, protected by the hill behind and yet high enough not to be overlooked from any other point. Through the almond and fig trees, I could see the single decker country bus that Marie Luz had moved onto the land soon after I left. It was old and rusty and had been driven down a lot of dusty roads before it had come to rest finally up on this piece of land. It didn't blend in very well with the landscape. Walking along the terrace, I came across Marie Luz sitting in a bright red deck chair, smoking a cigarette as she looked out over the Valley below. Our reunion was definitely awkward. We had seen each other last in New York when she had shown up for my "Travels in America" Show. I had lived several lifetimes since then but I always carried a residual feeling of guilt that it had been me who had left her and our life in Ibiza. I remembered the commitment that I had made to her so long ago and felt bad that I hadn't been able to keep it. In the end, Marie Luz and I had slowly drifted apart and the burden of the family had been too heavy for me. The difference in our ages had been too great and we had found ourselves taking different directions. Or perhaps it was the lack of a sense of completion that had left me feeling that I hadn't behaved as kindly as I might have. I, after all, had moved onto other relationships whereas Marie Luz, as far as I knew, had stayed single ever since. In fact she had come to America several times hoping to rekindle our romance. Perhaps it was just that I felt that I had come out of the affair in better shape than she had. So our conversation was a little uncomfortable when we met. She covered up any feelings of embarrassment by showing me around her bus/home and talked about all the repairs and modifications that she had made and planned to make. Perhaps I noted a trace of defiance in her voice as she talked about the bus. I knew from Phillip that several people had offered to help her build a small cinder block house on the land. A neighbour who considered the bus an eyesore had pressured her to get rid of it. But she obviously loved the old bus and was totally committed to getting it into shape and making it into an attractive home. Otherwise the land looked pretty much as I remembered it, with beautiful views in two directions. I made a second visit to see Marie Luz before we left when she had a small house-warming party, but never felt very relaxed with her. I would see her often in the port of Ibiza at night where she earned her living doing fabulous pen portraits of visitors to the island. She had always drawn better than I and had refined and developed her art over the years. Although I didn't feel very close to her any more, whether for reasons of guilt or because time had passed and we had gone in different directions, she continued to be a central element in one of the most important periods of my life. She will always be a part of my life.

And so we settled into life in Ibiza that long hot summer. We got Bruce's house into comparatively good shape but continued to live between his and Phillip's house. Poor Phillip was going through a long, painfully drawn-out break-up with Maria after spending some fifteen years together. To make the situation more difficult, they had two children who were caught in the middle but who were to live with Maria. Phillip, in true Aussie style, was drinking a lot and Maria, always much more conservative and middle class, had discovered the New Age and its promise of enlightenment and new freedom. Actually it seemed as if Maria had only waited for Catherine and I to arrive before taking the children and going back to her parents' house in Les Baux in the South of France.

One night, sitting down in Bruce's entrada, we clearly heard the sound of a drunken Phillip shouting and howling in his misery and loss. Probably nearly everyone in the valley could hear it too. The next day, he was miserably depressed and the entrada of his house was littered with pieces of the wooden chairs that he had smashed. We had long conversations about life and love and relationships every night with him but only got a sense of some deep-rooted misogyny, which he masked by avowing a worship of women. A few years later when we were all together again in Bali, he thanked us for helping him during that most difficult period. Without us to save him, he said that he might have destroyed himself. At the time, it felt like he had almost destroyed us. He treated Catherine terribly badly, heaping a fundamental disdain for women upon her and sometimes treating her like a servant, all the while claiming to be the original feminist. I stayed around because Phillip was an old friend in trouble and because I was still considering coming back to live on the island. But Catherine only put up with this abuse because of me and she behaved heroically at the time.

We settled into a pattern of life in Ibiza, working at home in the morning.

I was drawing and writing while Catherine made beaded necklaces or studied Spanish. Then in the afternoons we would pile into Phillip's battered Land Rover, or Bruce's even more battered Citroen and make trips to the beach to cool off in the sea. It was wonderful to discover Sa Caleta again, with its tiny beach, high cliffs and the little fishing huts where we would eat our picnic after our swim in the crystal clear water. Step Beach, near San Jose, hadn't altered much either. The impressive paved road which lead into the abandoned development was a little more cracked than it used to be, the potholes larger and the encroaching weeds a little higher. But the pebbled beach was still generally empty during the week and it was still my favourite place to take off all my clothes and soak up the sun and sea air. Step Beach reminded me of a hundred full moon parties, of lost days of my lost youth and of the Ibiza that would always be both accessible and secret. We helped Phillip at the various Hippie Flea Markets where he sold the clothes that he imported from Bali every year. Of course they weren't "hippie" markets any more but were big business for many of the island's immigrant inhabitants. They attracted tourists like flies to sugar. Phillip had been doing these markets for many years now, went to at least two a week and did fairly well out of them. But at the same time, they locked him into a lifestyle and behaviour pattern that he had adhered to for years. Since his arrest and deportation years before, the Ibicenco authorities had made him reapply for a resident visa every year. He had to go back to his native Australia to do that. So for at least fifteen years, he had left Ibiza for Bali in the late Fall and spent a month there partying. He then went on to Brisbane where he worked for a few months before flying back to Bali in March. He spent another month there, buying his clothes stock for the season before flying back to Ibiza to sell at the markets there. There was a rigidity about his life that definitely reflected his personality and I wished that he would break the pattern and try something different. There were still a lot of people doing what he was doing and they seemed to me to be the least creative people on the Ibiza scene. These were the ones who were still locked into the past and who were, for whatever reason, unable to take the next step. Ibiza was still beautiful out in the country but it was generally outrageously expensive and all the towns had become merely big tourist traps. I had seen all this starting to happen back in the Seventies and knew that I had moved on at the right time, while all my memories of the magic were still intact.

We would often go out into Ibiza town after dinner at Phillip's and would sit out in the street in front of the Mar Y Sol Bar and watch the show. It wasn't quite the show that it used to be, for there were a lot of very straight English and German tourists who were never there before. But I still always loved to watch the hordes of beautiful and the not so beautiful people that regularly came to the island. Drinks now cost almost five dollars each and the cover charge to get into Pacha's Disco was almost fifty dollars per person! Fortunately we had friends who regularly got free tickets to the discos and Catherine and I went out dancing whenever we could. This was the Summer of the Balearic Beat, the new English electronic dance music that was suddenly conquering Europe. It was a mixture of sampled rhythm tracks and a heavy bass line, which was completely without form, structure or melody. It went on until it stopped. It seemed to me only to make sense if one was heavily drugged and I generally found the music boring and inhuman. Soon this music would develop into Acid House music and would be heard in discos all over the world. It would provide the pulse to the lives of alienated young people everywhere.

One of the problems in going out dancing was that none of the clubs opened before midnight, nothing much happened before one or two o'clock and most people didn't show up until three in the morning. There was even one disco that didn't open until six a.m. It was hard to lead any kind of regular life and keep up with that sort of schedule and it was with a great sense of relief that we discovered the Pereyra Theater Bar in Ibiza town. The Pereyra had been around for years but that summer, a wealthy jazz pianist from Holland had taken it over. He had started to bring in great jazz musicians from all over Europe to play and jam together in the evenings. Pretty soon it was hard to get into the door at night for the music was great. We thought it was the most interesting and exciting scene on the island.

Another place that we used to go to at night was Phyllis' Bar along the far end of the port in Ibiza. The little village of Talamanca had grown out of recognition in the years I had been away. It was now a string of condos, restaurants and clubs. Phyllis, from New York, had previously run an ice-cream cafe in the Old Town and had found a gypsy family who played great pop flamenco music. Two brothers played very rhythmical acoustic guitars through a small funky amplifier and speakers while various other members of the family either sang or danced to the music. Perhaps the stars of the show were the younger children who all danced with great seriousness, dedication and grace. The whole family was natural entertainers and the bar was normally packed at night.

Catherine and I walked all over the Valley and visited Mi Casita as well as Pepe and Esperanza's tienda on the main road. They weren't fazed to see me again in the slightest and merely asked me how I'd been and if I wanted Tulipan or some special goat cheese that they had on sale that day. They both looked a bit older and the shop had expanded like Pepe's waistline. Their horrible son, Pepe Jnr., now played with a motorbike instead of a toy truck. But Tia Josefa, the grandmother, was completely unchanged and seemed overjoyed to see me.

 

I borrowed Bruce's car and we drove over to San Antonio to visit Maria, a German woman who ran a boutique there where I had sold clothes years before. We made a couple of lovely trips out to Cala D'Hort to have a look at Vedra, the rock jutting out of the sea just off the beach, which we could see from Phillip's house. But we both had a sense that we were drifting without any direction in Ibiza. I couldn't focus on any serious work. We found ourselves socializing with people we didn't really want to see or hanging out with an unhappy Phillip. That felt pretty heavy and drained our energy most of the time. Occasionally we'd get to spend time with the old Phillip I remembered from the past. He could still be the charming, witty raconteur of tall Ibiza tales who was dedicated to his Ibiza lifestyle and to the building of his dream house up on top of the mountain. More often we spent nights around the candle-lit entrada table, watching him getting progressively drunker from the cheapo wine in cardboard cartons that he bought, while listening to him talk about transitory love and the infidelities of women.

We managed to sell the return portions of our plane tickets to London, thus committing ourselves to staying on in Ibiza for at least another couple of months. But we regretted doing so almost at once. Maria was back from France and she and Phillip were arguing once more up the hill. I felt that I couldn't leave him alone at this time. When she took the kids back to France once more, we moved back into his house with him.

In mid-September, Catherine and I took the big ferryboat to Barcelona. It was an eerily familiar trip and we spent the long day out on the deck in deck chairs, sleeping and reading. We got into the port in the evening and walked up the Rambles to get a train out to La Floresta to spend a few days with my dear old friends, Josep and Angela. It was fun to see them again. In the intervening years they had made a family, had four young children now and seemed more established than before. They were still living in the same house in the little village north of Barcelona that I remembered so well. Josep was still in the publishing business and commuted to the city every morning to his office. He was currently publishing magazines like "Chromo Y Fuego", dedicated to souped-up motorbikes and customised cars. He also produced the Spanish supplement to the well-known French magazine "Art et Decoration" and immediately offered to do a couple of features about my batik paintings. Josep had long been a patron of mine and had bought batik from me steadily over the years. Long ago I had made curtains for his living room and a bedspread and lamps for the house. This time he bought my painting "Two Figures on a Beach", a picture of Catherine and young Joshua walking together on a beach in Florida. Angela had always been a great friend of mine and we had a lot of catching up to do. She seemed happier than she used to be, had a job in the city also and adored her children whose room we were sleeping in for the duration of our stay.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed being back in Barcelona, the scene of my early relationship with Marie Luz. This was the city where I had started my long strange journey as a batik artist. When I had lived there before, I had constantly been missing my house and friends and life in Ibiza. I had always associated Barcelona with the struggle that we had gone through over Marie Luz's children. But I had remembered it with some fondness and nostalgia over the years and now found myself loving the old streets, the art nouveau hallways and houses, the cafes and the street life. Of course Spain had changed a lot in the intervening years. Franco had died shortly before I left and with him had died the terrible repression and the fear that went with a fascist regime. At one time it seemed as if there were four or five different branches of the police to be seen all over the city and that wasn't counting the plain-clothes division. Now Spain seemed to be doing well and what had once been a country of great art and culture, had become one again. We walked all over the Rambles, up and down the tiny streets of the "Chinese Quarter" and went to see the Picasso Museum.

We met Guiomar, Marie Luz's best friend with her journalist boyfriend at an open-air cafe at the top of the Rambles and found it easy to catch up with one another's lives. I went to visit Sr. Gancedo, our batik patron of the early Seventies, who offered to mount another show of my work but wasn't interested in buying any of my current work. And we went to see Jose Ramon, my old flat mate and visited some old Spanish friends of Catherine's whom she'd known in Boston as a child.

On our last day in Barcelona we went into town with Angela and Josep and had a look at Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral, still largely unfinished after so long. We also walked around his Parc Guell. I've always loved his fantastically shaped Art Nouveau architecture. We said loving good-byes to the Verges Family and took the night ferry back to Ibiza. It had been a pleasant trip to the Mainland although I came away feeling strangely dissatisfied and ultimately dispirited from the experience. I think that it was another experience that reminded me that one could never turn back the clock.

But it felt good to be back on the Island after the trip and we spent some days resting up out in the country at Phillip's. He was still very unhappy but for awhile we were able to deal with his nightly outpourings without getting too involved or stressed out by his anger and pain. Poor Bruce was going through it too, by this time. His relationship with Ellie wasn't going too well. She was a very directed woman with a family who ran a thriving clothes business and probably wished that Bruce, who was pretty directionless, had something of his own to get into.

 

As Fall came on and the nights grew cooler, we began to think of our next move. By now we both knew that life in Ibiza wasn't what we were looking for and the nightly sessions, with both Bruce and Phillip drinking a lot, were getting to be a strain. A friend from the old days, Catherine, showed up in Ibiza for a visit with her friend Linda. We enjoyed running around with them for a week but I knew that our days there were numbered. The lack of purpose to our lives was bothering us. I remembered that I had worked incredibly hard when I had lived in Ibiza before while everyone around me seemed to be playing.

Strangely, it was Phillip, ever the armchair traveler, who suggested that we make a trip to India. It would be inexpensive and above all, it would be new and different. My friend Lou told us about his adventures ten years before when he went to Poona to visit his guru Bhagwan and we began to think seriously about going there.

I called my mother one night from town and she told me that she'd just heard that my father had been diagnosed as having inoperable intestinal cancer. Of course I knew of his earlier bout with cancer and so I wasn't really surprised. I felt terribly sad nevertheless but glad that I had managed to come to England when I had.

On October 23rd, Phillip and Bruce took us to the airport and we all said loving good-byes. It was time to go and all of us knew it. I was really glad that I'd come back to Ibiza and had checked it all out again. I had been able to lay some ghosts to rest in the process. I'm sure that Catherine was happy to have been able to see the island and to have checked out that part of my life. But I know that she had probably only stayed around to be with me. Our life with Phillip and our nightly sessions around the table were a great strain on her. Again the message was written pretty clearly. You can never go back home again, it said.

Catherine and I celebrated an amazing one year together on the day we got back to England. We spent a further three weeks there while we got ready to go to India in mid-November. We went down to Rye the day we got back into Britain and had a nice reunion with Joy. We were both pretty out of it for a few days and spent a lot of time sleeping and watching BBC television. We interspersed our inertia with walks along Rye Beach and excursions to our favourite spot, the bird Sanctuary. It was somehow always soothing and restful to sit in the dark little wooden blinds and to peer out through the slit window at all the different water birds as they went about their daily routines, nesting and swimming and fighting together. Perhaps it was because the Sanctuary was a microcosm, which both mirrored and contrasted with our own human lives. I could definitely identify with the birds' territorial and mating squabbles, if that was what they were, for within a couple of days, the lack of space and our intrusion on her routines caused arguments at Joy's.

It was time to go back up to London where we stayed at Bill's flat near Notting Hill Gate. It was always soothing to see him. The spare room was chaotic with its huge houseplants and unfinished art projects but we always felt at home there. Portobello Road was nearby and we could easily walk to Hyde Park, to the Victoria and Albert Museum or into the West End. I've always done lots of walking when I'm in big cities, whether New York or Barcelona or San Francisco. London was no exception. So we would take off early in the mornings, walk nearly everywhere we wanted to go and cover huge distances, ten miles or more, before staggering home at night. I think I found that staying out on the streets and walking instead of taking buses and trains was the only way to stay grounded in such an environment. Besides, you got to see the city that way too.

We were in London again to arrange tickets and visas for our India trip and went to see my friend Ramesh. I'd met him in West Virginia at the Gesundheit Institute where he had spent a day cooking together and had been corresponding with him ever since. His restaurant, The Mandeer, consistently won awards for the best vegetarian and Indian food in London and was situated near the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. It was great to see him again and after treating us to one of his fabulous curries, we discussed India with him. He showed us how to eat using only one's right hand. It would be considered unclean and inappropriate in India to use one's left hand, which should be kept only for washing one's private parts. Ramesh even demonstrated how to drink soup using his right hand and we dutifully followed his lead although I can't ever remember seeing anyone actually do that in India. Long ago I had discussed the possibility of my showing some batiks at the little gallery attached to the restaurant and we decided to go ahead with that show and leave the work up while we were away in India. So I bought doweling rods, mounted the work very simply and managed to hang about a dozen pieces in the space available. The restaurant was very popular and a lot of people would see the work while we were away. Ramesh also operated a travel agency from his premises for he was the complete Renaissance man, a restaurateur, musician, poet and businessman. We bought tickets to India and applied for visas through his company. I was interested to note that whereas Catherine's visa, as an American, only cost her about five pounds, mine, as a Brit., cost me nearly twenty five pounds. This was because the British, presumably in an attempt to limit the number of Indians holding British passports who applied for visas to come to England, charged exorbitant amounts for their visas. This was a way for the Indians to retaliate and recoup some of these costs. As it was, my visa took much longer to come through than Catherine's did. I was English with an American address and was presumably checked out thoroughly before my visa was granted. This held us up in England for some days and was a nuisance.

We met our friend Richard from Ibiza at a pub on Portobello Road where Ibicenco refugees often congregated. He whisked us off to his flat in Freshford near Bath for a couple of days. The countryside nearby was absolutely lovely even with winter on the way. We spent two days walking along the river and across fields and exploring England at its most classically pastoral. We even drove down to Bristol for a rather tame party one night and enjoyed that too. Richard was due to bring us back to London but we decided to take him down with us to Rye where he was at his most charming with my mother and stayed the night.

Suddenly England was experiencing an Indian summer. We walked down to the Bird Sanctuary one morning, just in time to see a most extraordinary thing. As we sat inside the blind by the side of the little lake, a small prop plane swooped in low in front of us in the middle of the afternoon. It dropped a large oil-drum canister on a small parachute, which fell into the tall grasses between the water and the fence. It all happened very quickly and I wasn't even sure that the event had really occurred. Rye Harbour had long been notorious as a smugglers' port and haven. It crossed our minds immediately that this was a daring daytime drop of cigarettes, alcohol or even of drugs of some kind. I was all for going and investigating the contents of the canister. As we debated the wisdom of that move, two men entered the blind behind us dressed in straight clothes and raincoats, not looking at all like bird lovers. We left the blind rather hurriedly and walked around the lake to the blind at the other end but as we reached it, two men came out of that one too. We realized that the whole scene was being carefully observed. So we slipped away discretely and decided to leave well alone. But I felt amazed by both the careful planning and the sheer brazenness of those smugglers who dared to smuggle so fearlessly.

We found ourselves hanging out in London waiting for my visa to come through and watched the fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night from Bill's back garden. This was a truly English experience and celebration complete with hot baked potatoes, mulled cider and a bonfire. And we also watched a truly American event on television when George Bush thrashed Michael Dukakis to win the US Presidential Election. Ah well, I remember thinking, the American public will get exactly what they asked for and probably what they deserve.

Back in Rye and nose to nose with Joy again, I reflected that it was definitely time to be on the move once more. A mother/son relationship is an intense and complex thing at the best of times and I had been away for a very long time. I felt that my mother was both loving me and feeling angry and abandoned by me at the same time. And I, for my part, couldn't give her an inch of slack. I found myself watching her constantly and jumping on her for any inappropriate behaviour at once. We did very well for about three days but in the very limited space available, needed to be apart after that. Long walks on the pebble beach along to Winchelsea helped. We went to Rye town quite often and explore the little twisted streets and visited the Art Gallery there where Catherine had a lot of her jewelry on show.

Mercifully, my visa finally came through and it was time to be on our way again. We packed up our bags once more and went over to Lewes to spend a final day and night with Maurice and Patty. There was no mention made of his illness while we were there. I think that it was just too difficult to talk about it but Patty looked deathly pale and was terribly tense. Maurice took us out for a last meal at a nearby Indian Restaurant on the last evening where we finally had quite an insightful talk about his marriage with Joy and the family life we had all had together.

 

 

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