Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Actually last week I was whisked off by the husband to Frenchman’s Creek. I had been suffering from anxiety dreams again, you know the ones. I would find myself standing up before a packed lecture theatre pontificating about the exhibtion when I would suddenly look down and discover that I had forgotten to get dressed that morning. Yes I was actually stark naked in front of hundres of people – not a pretty sight. I would wake up in a cold sweat, clutching the duvet cover and start to sob. Despite the husband’s reluctance to embrace British holidays (the product of too many years as an ex-pat in exotic but quite frankly scary locations) he decided to take matters into his own hands. I packed porridge, my Harris Tweed and walking boots – embracing my inner Margaret Rutherford I would stride out along the Helford river, hailing the handsome young blonde to take me across to the local hostelry in his water taxi. Ordering a fish and chip supper and a pint of the county’s finest, I reflected that there could be no better place to be. I took the opportunity to spend a day in Newlyn, visiting the Penlee House Museum and Art Gallery – I wanted to reacquaint myself with the Newyln school artists and those evocative images of working women and men. As I walked around the gallery I was reminded of my paternal grandmother who always wore a clean pinny over her cheap cotton frock. As a child I would be entrusted to her care when my mother wanted 5 minutes peace. My housebound grandmother would give me a bowl of water and a tea cup to occupy myself, sometimes I would be sat at the window and told to count the cars as they drove past. If I was especially good, and promised not to tell my mother, my grandmother would read the tea leaves or my palm or tell me horrific stories of how she had the ‘evil eye’. Paradoxically, my grandmother, a devout Catholic, would receive the priest once a week, carefully removing her pinny in deference to a man of God. In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue I have included one of Walter Langley’s paintings ‘Tender Grace of a Day that is Dead/ (1880). I have the catalogue open on my desk now and as I stare at the image I realise that the woman and child in the painting are echoes of myself and my grandmother all those years ago.

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