Our last Kick-About together was a celebration of the idea of tea-making, tea-drinking, and its various rituals. Without this activity, with its powers of comfort and displacement, I wonder sometimes how we would otherwise negotiate some of life’s disappointments, large and small. Disappointment is one of the themes of Molly Drake’s I Remember, and it is Drake’s delicate, if devastating song that has this week inspired us to produce new works in a short time.
“My story begins with our family holiday to Dorset. It was probably early 60s and I think we were staying in Swanage. We were usually quite lucky with the weather, but it was not to be this time. As we had no car then, my parents decided on taking a nice coach trip to Lulworth Cove which was a famous beauty spot not far along the coast. My sister and I wore our summer dresses and warm hand knitted cardigans, as it was getting a bit chilly, but when we arrived at our destination the heavens opened and rain looked likely to be set in for the rest of the day.
‘Quick – let’s run up to that beach shop’ said mum. ‘We’ll buy something waterproof there for you both.’
My heart sank, as I could see at a glance it was a typical seaside shop that sold everything from buckets and spades to thermos flasks, and Mary Quant it was not!
So in we went and the kind lady behind the counter said, ‘I have the very thing – plastic macs!” My heart sank even further. She proceeded to pull out a white one for my sister, which had a small plastic headscarf, and as she was 4 years younger than me, it looked quite cute. However, despite a long search, there didn’t appear to be another in my size. Hooray!
Then just as I thought I had escaped, she found another bigger mac tucked away beneath the rest and, horror of horrors, it was luminous pink! I mean ‘day glow’ and ‘get your sunglasses on’ pink. (I know the sixties fashion was all about these bright colours, but this must have been very much a forerunner!). Even worse it had a matching hat, rather like an upturned flowerpot, that tied under the chin.
‘That’s just the job!’ said mum.
I spent the rest of the day skulking along the shoreline, trying desperately to hide amongst the overturned boats, but there was no way I could disguise myself; if I had stood on some rocks, I could have done a turn as a lighthouse beacon!
So that is my memory of Lulworth Cove, which is a place of peaceful serenity and muted beauty to many, but all I remember is psychedelic misery!“
“The source of much pain (for the individual) and much humour (for the group) lies in the gap between one’s aspirations (or expectations), and one’s achievements. This is particularly true when we are young and in love. We want to be ‘soul-mates’ with our loved one – to share the same experiences, the same emotions, the same memories. Alas, it is rarely achievable. We recognise Molly Drake’s pain, because we have felt it too. But it also raises a wry smile. For we have learnt, as we grow within a relationship, that no two people experience any shared event in the same way. So we adjust our expectations accordingly.
By the time we have aged within that relationship, we come to recognise that it is an achievement for any shared experience to be remembered by both of us at all, without several minutes of dispute over location time of year, weather, and reason for being there. And why is it that I find I cannot remember the name of a place, I cannot remember how to get there, or why – but I can remember exactly what we ate and the colour of the waitress’s nail polish? What’s all that about?”
“This one was a bit of a late starter for me. Having given some early thought to it and tinkered with water colour washes as a response to the words, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations . Initially I was thinking in terms of printed textiles based on the stanzas and 1950’s, but a few scribbles and doodles confirmed that wasn’t ready to work for me. So it rested until almost the deadline and, as a final go at it, I tried cutting up the original into sections and rearranging in an effort to express the ‘you and me ‘ idea. That practice put me in mind of putting together a shade card.
In this one, ‘me’ is represented by colours for Molly’s words. ‘You’ are the stencils that stand separate until used on Molly’s colours, and that combination can be read as the ‘we’… though here, as in the poem, the two together do not represent a happy ‘we’ of Molly’s expectations.
The card is done from scratch and the colour swatches are gouache and then laminated. The script is traced from the text using a Word font. The miniature stencils are handcut and pierced oiled card. Yet another very interesting Kick-About for me and a real challenge to express an ‘abstract’ visually.”
“Both of these pieces come under the headings of love / regret / romance and memory, all of which are sparked off by this prompt…”
“Goodbye to all that” oil on gesso on board. 60cm X 60cm
“Always” Stitching on old handkerchief and oil paint on waxed paper
“Molly Drake’s words brought a tear to my eye, how such a poet can write something so striking about the melancholic juxtaposition of both light and dark. It brought back memories of people that have come and gone out of my life but also the places where those memories and faces come bubbling up when passing in a car or walking past a particular patch of land, like reveries of times I will never forget.”
“What a wonderful song by Molly Drake, and so beautifully sung. This piece of music is like a faded old photograph, looking back at a bittersweet time, the little vignettes of holidays and days out are achingly nostalgic.
I’ve been on both sides of the dynamic expressed in this song at one time or another and either position is just grim and sad. I did some sketches this week in response to the prompt about a weekend trip with one of my first boyfriends over thirty years ago. We stayed in a guest house and went for a walk to a beautiful waterfall nearby, It should have been a carefree, loved-up, fun few days, full of laughter and lovemaking, but I’d reached the point when I realised I didn’t want to take the relationship much further but my boyfriend did and we separated soon after getting home.
This waterfall makes me think of that lost weekend. I wasn’t really mature enough at the time for a serious relationship; it would be some time before I was emotionally grown-up enough for that . I hope that boyfriend is happy now, wherever he is. He was a lovely guy.”
“You might consider this a sequel of sorts, as back in March 2021, when Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities was our collective muse, I photographed and catalogued a selection of my own keepsakes, the emotional importance of which I couldn’t actually remember. Molly Drake’s ‘I Remember’ isn’t so much about the fallibility of memory, but rather the different ways in which we remember the same thing. Drake’s song also captures very truthfully how the significance of something can be quite wasted on someone else – even those closest to us. With this in mind, I turned my attention to some of the objects with which I share my home, but with which I have no emotional association, but which resonate very powerfully with my husband. I see a rather retro-looking glass paperweight, while my husband experiences a Proustian rush returning him at once to the comforts of his grandparents’ home and all the love he found there. There are objects collected here the provenance of which is still unknown to me, and their emotional heft as mysterious, but ‘he remembers firelight’.”
“Back to jugs. Hoping a narrative might be staged within a shared space, in order to portray intimacy and separation and where the suggestion of alternate ‘points of view’ (that which each jug points to) draws a parallel to Molly Drake’s poem. Respecting the natural linen and pencil line seemed the right approach in order to deliver something feeling a little more natural than a paint saturated canvas at 30x30cm.”
“I wasn’t aware of Nick Drake’s heritage, but Molly’s song immediately made me think of ‘River Man. I took the feeling I got from both songs, and made a prose poem, then some art to accompany it.”
She did not remember the way, but she remembered the times, the place. She wanted to connect present to past. She did not know how or where to begin, and yet she needed to try to construct that bridge. Words were all she had now.
Two ways, really, even though she always pretended they were the same. Or maybe it was only her longing that failed to understand that they were two, not one.
She had been dreaming of a river. A man, a boat. Trees, weeping, or was that her own voice, crying on the wind? It had been summer once. Flowered. Sweet.
But here was the river again, littered with fallen leaves. What magic word would turn back the seasons, dispel the haze, repair a lifetime that had already disintegrated into dust?
Was she coming or going? In her dreams a voice kept repeating you have to choose. But between what? Who? Did she get to choose who would be waiting on the other side of the river? Or was she to be the one left waiting?
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, we have our latest prompt, the short 1977 film Powers Of Ten, directed by Charles and Ray Eames.