Alice 'Doreen' wrote, throughout her life; here is a collection of her writing from the period 1990 - 2007.
To John, my husband
Daily, hourly we say the Mantra
The Mantra that is needed to fill the yawning gap
The physically felt gap within the breast
Like a hole in a Henry Moore sculpture
I love you; never said enough
Never too often
I love you, I love you, I love you
Over all our years
More years than we have to come
Said daily, said hourly,
Binding us ever tightly my love,
Till that final terrible day
When even then
Hourly and by the minute
We will still love; you and I
Do you believe in ‘Later’?
No ‘Later’ never comes
Now is the only time
Now is the only time, tomorrow is the future
Yesterday has gone.
‘Later’ is the let out for leaving work undone
‘Later’ makes no garden and leaves the dishes dirty,
Friends without a call and old folk unvisited.
‘Later’ is a never time
The only time is now.
I’ll finish 'Later' - more 'Later'.
She lifted the pebble, warm from the sun, smoothed by the sea.
She loved its shape almost snuggling in her palm like a small bird.
Artists she’d read about – Henry Moore – Barbara Hepworth would collect those stones that spoke to their inner conscience and use the shapes to inspire their sculptures.
She looked and was aware of the ages of time that rested in her grip – ‘dinner time children’ called and she threw the stone into the sea.
Time never runs out, with the rain dripping on the roof. Move out of the way, splash, splash. Never mind the music keeps going and children’s voices.
How much time have we got?
Who knows, here today, gone tomorrow, ephemeral, we are all just on a journey, a bee has six weeks, we are luckier than that, well mostly.
Stones are wonderful keepers of time millions of years, lift one, hold a million years in your palm and know that you are just a blip on the world’s calendar.
Whilst at Leisure
Whilst at leisure, she did lie upon the cliff
Her form elongated, her eyes surveying
The kingdom far below.
Inland the white clouds changed to grey,
Sun combined with shadow, warm with cool.
Above the gulls explored the airy sky,
Circling in drafts of air to higher altitude
Before speed diving to impact
On a shoal of silvery fish.
At seven I don’t remember much,
Oh yes, playing in the fields and waiting,
As yet another Nazi flying bomb, stopped
Its thunderous roar above our heads,
And we suddenly held our breathes listening for the bang,
Before our play carried on again.
At seventeen, when youthful beauty had been bestowed
And the grateful knowledge of what a smile could do
A flutter of eyelids – oh yes flirting,
So delightful. Ah!
At twenty-seven – thirty-seven – forty-seven
With the joys, sorrows and frustrations of a family growing
It seemed endless, endless, while being lived
And now, but a blink of an eye.
What about seventy? – No never, never seventy!
Yes now – small aches, small pains, stiffness in joints
The need to take things easy
The joy of friendships long held
The joy of an old and loving husband and family, my dear family.
The old women sliced the lemon and forced it down on the old glass squeezer before pouring the juice into her jug of water. The smell, nothing else quite like the smell of lemons, changed the air of the tiny scullery, that and the steam from the kettle boiling away on the gas ring. ‘Lots of sugar little girl’, she said. Cooling the drink enough for the shivering child to sip. Colds are nasty things, but lovely lemonade will make you feel much better’.
'Yes’, said the little girl, ‘it does Nana’.
The smell fills the nose. In the mouth the acid juice almost stings cleaning the pallet as it lingers.
Zest squirts in the air as the peel is pressed.
Petrol – Gas thickens the air, vapour effects the breath. Horrid wish it wasn’t there.
The Smokey fumes from an old car that needs attention. Noise now, strain, clanking gears. Man taking over all the beauty. Making roads, noise, danger.
There are good things too, help at hand. A personal flying carpet, a willing stead that carry’s you to wonderful places.
Tells you temperature, hardness – softness, things so tiny you can hardly see them, a prick from a thorn or cactus in the skin, a grain of sand, many grains, cool and silky ebbing through fingers, catching your nails.
Bath water – how warm, just right for me, too hot for baby – depth just right for baby – not enough for mum.
Slippery, shivery silk, soft warm thick wool, velvet for luxury against your skin. Texture of cloth damp for washing the floor, coarse in your hands, appropriate to wipe up the mess.
Wood freshly sawn, splintery - smell, smell its resin, sanded now in old furniture, stroke it with a gentle hand and embraced by it in return.
Gravel in the hurt knee. Tension, tension against the coming injection, ‘go soft dear and it won’t hurt near so much’. Feel the relaxation, feel the deep slow breath in your lungs, feel it raise your abdomen. The breath, up by your shoulders, fast through running, taste the blood in your throat, tension, tension let it go, slow, slow.
Feel the caress of love and go soft, feel the grip in your heart and stomach when you say good bye and may never meet again. ‘What if? Oh, dear God, no’.
Feel the lash of the wind, a branch hitting you across the face, the briar scratching a bare leg.
How can she manage? She can’t see any longer and now the sense of touch has almost gone too. How do you find a tablet or squeeze the bottle of eye drops when your fingers no longer impart the information?
‘Ping the bowl, does it ring sweetly? No? But I can barely see any crack’. ‘Feel just there – oh yes, a tiny roughness’.
‘I need a coat, I’m goose flesh all over, I feel the cold, I’m shivering, I’m shivering’.
Ringing in the ears, shushing, constant tick of a clock, counting the time.
Tick of the radiators metal expanding with heat – contracting as it cools. Plastic does too.
Tick, tick, tick. Laughter of children sounds of playground sweetly raucous, whistles then quiet. The constant throb of engines – cars, trucks, motorcycles, even deep in the country away from roads an aeroplane buzzes or a tractor masks the sweet song of birds. When I was little, I loved the sound of silence, it’s rare now that All the mechanical sounds are absent.
Beat out the rhythm on the drum, rhythms that vibrate to ancient deep ancestral memories.
Dance to the beginning song of the Foxtrot. Relax to Mozart. Cover your ears to some many decibel dirge and hope your hearing will recover.
Precious hearing when its depleted you are an outsider to the jokes and information – ‘sorry say it again, look at me don’t shout, not all my hearing has gone, just certain wave lengths, so they say’.
Sounds can make you feel happy relaxed, joyful, sad, ill, pained. Sound incorporates you into the group. Deaf people are excluded. If you are blind, you are cut off from distance, but you would be able to hear the gentle voice of someone you love. If you’re deaf you must feel as if you are in a bubble – where even your loved one has to speak loudly – I love you, shouted, does not have the same feeling, the subtly of warmth, the gentleness. So, must sound angry.
‘Not thinking Aloud’
We are, a reflection of the way we are perceived.
I am loved by John and my family and I know friends like me. That gives me a warm glow of comfort and delight and I hope that I also give to others love and warmth.
Is that very pleasure, that feeling of importance of position in the world that reason why people who rise to eminence in one field or another, go a bit mad?
This reflected love admiration – whether it be for being good at kicking a ball, singing, making money or in politics, ‘goes to the head’ and makes them dazzled and sometimes quite mad.
Sleeper - Painting
I made the ‘Sleeper’ picture in the 1900s – 93, I think.
At the time I was painting everyday and never finished one picture before the next was well started.
The germ of this painting was my concern about my Mother who was 90 years old and who had dementia, she was a child.
I think at that time I was aware that it was easy to sleep away one’s life and wake into a world of the very old.
The chair symbolises the presence of my father whom I never knew. He died when I was eighteen months old. Mother used to say about an old blue kitchen seat, ‘your daddy painted that’.
The way I painted then was to expand a thought or a feeling by drawing constantly – reams of old computer paper that came from my husband's business, were what I used, and because I could not paint once the light became dim – artificial light was no good unless the picture had been started in that light, the colour changed so much, in the changed light, when I drew at night.
My pictures often were painted in series; looking at the idea that was concerning me, in differing ways and my work was nearly always involving issues that worried me, or memories of my childhood.
For some reason I can’t remember now, I just stopped the work and several years passed before with the help of a great book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, and the encouragement of mainly Edna Coatsworth and always the support of my family, I was able to do some work again.
Edna was the one with the whip – ‘you must do it, you must start again, you can do it’.
But anyway, I haven’t gone back to my old way, which if I’m honest, I think produced the work I most enjoyed doing, and I enjoyed using my paint in that way, which I suppose looks to many, quite laboured, because it is.
The flags picture was the first one I did when I began painting again; I find it joyous and again my friend was quite instrumental in its production.
Now I spend most of my time writing and E’s class is keeping the door open for when the painter takes over from the writer.
Poem for Thursday
The sea is milling again
Creaming at the edge and far out
Billowing, the wind growls and stills
The curling waves crash, pounding the shore
And crows, tossed in the boisterous air
Like rags from a witch’s gown.
France – Holidays
Memories and warmth
Colour, markets, baskets
Open country, wine and food
Sun and sea – fish for supper
Too much motoring
Smart women in Paris
Paintings in the Louvre
Trying to communicate
Not being understood
Laughing at mistakes
Always greeting politely
Bon jour Madame, Bon jour Monsieur
Grapes and smells
Sketching in the rain
Swimming in the sea
Buying lots of fruit
Forgetting what I’ve learnt
Reflexions in the Pool
In the still rock pool
Hypnotised by sky and floating cloud
Shells I see shaped long and thin, broken
Mirrored sea shells resembling blue belles
Trailing sea weed wafts the deep
Urchins and anemones crabs and snails
Shards of by gone days
Reflexions of another day
Of memories and dreams
In the deep rock pool, I see
I'm not there!
I'm not there
I speak and no one hears
I question and no one answers
Their voices dart around me
Avoiding the void
Do, you not see me, notice, observe?
No, you're not there
Here I am.
Am I not wise?
Am I not intersting?
Have I no longer any worth?
Transparent with age
I'm not there.
Alice Doreen - Writing in 1991
Painting is OK.
Writing is difficult -why?
Doing anything without question cuts out the need to think through what you are about –
Is that the difference between the intelligent and the simple mind? Or is it also the difference between the active and the lazy?
I know I’m lazy.
Why do I paint?
What do I like about other’s paintings?
How can I paint without bothering too much about other folk, say or think of your results?
This applies mainly to the uninformed – “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like” type of person. In reality I don’t worry too much about them. Yet I do need to be encouraged somehow – I had a faze during this year (1991), when I felt so depressed by my work, I couldn’t do anything for abut three weeks. Thank goodness I knew I had to get something ready to show – I might still have been in the doldrums.
My pictures often stem from my sketches, based on memories or whatever. It’s as if I recognise someone or I’m intrigued by some action. It’s useful to me to have the sketches on single sheets – not in a book. I can then sift through them or pin them up, put one next to another – I have masses of them - and just don’t wish to part with them – my summer pictures are in them.
Alice Doreen was always concerned that like her Mother and two of her Aunts, she would suffer from dementia in later life. This poem reflects her thoughts on this subject. Alice Doreen passed away, unexpectedly, in her sleep on the 1st January 2019. She is buried in the Silverwood Woodland cemetry, on the Isle of Wight.
A Calm Peaceful End
Do not prevent me from my sweet rest
When time has smoothed my mind
So that I am lost in a fog of forgetfulness.
And husband, children, family, friends
Are distant or completely gone.
I’ve seen the bewilderment of those
Whom I have known and loved, when
They’re made to stumble on frightened, angry.
Do not give me magic pills and potions
Against the rest that nature does intend.
When disease and pain crack at my old bones
And strength has ebbed away leaving me at
The mercy of the kindness of others.
However much they love or think they owe,
I’m owed nothing but a calm peaceful end.
Alice Doreen Louise McIntosh (1934 - 2019)