22/11/20 We are waiting in the thickening drizzle by the River Dee nearly at the end of our 8 mile walk. One of our small party has fallen behind and is standing hunched about 500 yards back at the bottom of some steps. Group leader Heather asks Tim to run back and check, It's Joe says someone, he's 87 you know. Best to check he's OK. 87? Oh my!
Minutes tick and we get wetter. Tim trots back. All OK - he's just on his phone he reports. People groan and mutter, weary and wet. A smiling Joe hurtles towards us, stick in hand, full of apologies. Sorry folks it was my son, His rosy cheeks round in a smile. 87 indeed.
That is my first experience walking with the ramblers. The youngest is 15 and the oldest... as above. We stop for elevenses by the fast flowing River Dee and have a damp picnic break under the trees in the grounds of Crathes Castle. Good to walk with others for a change as you find out much more about a place.
Back in the cabin, I try to do a bit of painting but get frustrated with my efforts, so as usua I turn to artists. One of my favourites is the outrageous Maggi Hambling (two works above left and centre) who turned 75 last month, and gave a rare interview and insight into her studio practice on a BBC2 documentary Making Love With Paint. Brilliantly wicked and challenging, she loves the sea almost as much as her cigarettes and whisky. I'm following her advice - not the fags and booze but her routine of sketching every morning when half asleep to download subconscious thoughts and dreams.
Here's how she once described the life of being a painter : "It's hell mostly. And it's a very masochistic business. I do the same thing every day and something goes right for half an hour a couple of times a month. You work for those moments." And she's been at it for 60 years! I have to learn patience...
Then I had to cram in the prep for this week's Humanities topic : photography. The best was watching a three part TV drama from 1999 by Stephen Poliakoff and starring Timothy Spall, Hannah Gordon, Billie Whitelaw and Emlia Fox. Called Shooting the Past, it was about trying to save an archive collection of 10m photos from being destroyed by American developers. Great cast and brilliant piece of theatrical TV drama - what the tutor described as 'Baroque Realism.' Doing this course gives access to some really interesting material. We also read Barthes On Photography which was complicated and Susan Sontag.
The discussion as usual ranged far and wide but one point that many people I know are facing now is what to do with old photos. As elderly parents die, we are left with boxes and boxes of stuff to sort out including family albums, often of people we don't recognise or never even knew. Throwing them away seems disloyal somehow.
It's said that we die twice - first when we stop breathing and second when our names are no longer mentioned. Or as George Eliot wrote: "Our dead are never dead until we have forgotten them." Without the old photos to remind us and future generations, where will we be?
Of course future generations will mainly have digital images so where to store them is not the issue. I must admit that one of my boxes in storage contains photo albums of my parents, grandparents etc - none of whom my daughters knew. There are also albums of my travels in my teens and 20s and my friends - but again not much interest to my girls. Photos of them as they grew up are framed - stored another box or three!