Cove Park
The living quarters at Cove Park, an artists’ and writers’ retreat in Argyll. The ‘huts’ were used on the isle of Tarensay for the TV series Castaway.

Mallard duck
A Mallard male duck at Cove Park
Mallard ducks
Mallard ducks


I continue with further snippets from the Diary. At this time in January I started poems on paintings that interested me. There are notes about some of the artists, namely, da Vinci, Rossetti, Ingres and Whistler.


Friday 18th January 2013

Hospital visit

Today we were at the hospital to see the oncologist. He appeared to be happy with the way the operation went. We were there to discuss options for further treatment. This basically boiled down to whether Margaret should get more chemotherapy and as he didn’t strongly recommend it she will not be getting any. After hospital we went shopping for groceries and made for home. Margaret was delighted that it wasn’t necessary for her to get more treatment. Tonight we are praising God for the way the cancer was caught early and how successful the operation was.

More appropriate verses

We were also surprised – is ‘amazed again’ too strong a phrase? – at the night-time Bible reading in the psalms. We read some verses every night and it so happened that it was Psalm 98, which begins: O sing a new song to the Lord / for wonders he hath done: / His right hand and his holy arm / him victory has won. The Lord God his salvation / hath caused to be known; / His justice in the heathen’s sight / he openly has shown. Of course, we apply these verses to all that has happened to us including Margaret’s successful operation and her not having to go through with more chemotherapy, which she was dreading.

Saturday 19th January 2013

The Madonna of the Rocks

In the past week I’ve started writing a series of poems themed on paintings by European artists.
So far I have just written one poem on the Madonna of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s amazing what a great artist he was and yet how few paintings he completed, not more than 12 apparently. But then he was the true renaissance man and his genius far transcended painting and his fame rests as much on the prodigality of his other talents as on the paintings. It’s thought-provoking that he should live at the time of the infamous Borgias, widely accused of treachery, murder, torture and incest. That one of the Borgias, who had fathered about seven children while still a cardinal, should become Pope Alexander VI reminds us of the gap between then and now. The 14th and 15th centuries were brutal times. How amazing then that such great art as da Vinci’s and the other renaissance masters was being produced in the midst of all the treachery and violence of the rulers.

I, I, I or i, i, i

Margaret, bless her, often doesn’t understand where I’m coming from. Why go to the trouble of writing poems about pictures? On the road to town yesterday I try to explain to her that the kind of person (‘artist’?) I am and have always been is one who tries to make sense of the world. I like to apply my intelligence, my I I I. She laughed at that and gave me a sardonic look. By I I I she thought I meant my ego. But what I meant was ‘integrational intuitional intelligence,’ ha, ha, ha! I tried to explain this concept as being what a person does when he or she tries to integrate all the knowledge and experiences he or she has had in life into a composite whole which makes sense.

‘The silent moment’

A lot of discussion followed my little joke, but at least I think Margaret understands better where I’m coming from.

Sorry dear to bore you again
With my intellectual twaddle:
You and I know the most important things
Cannot be said, they just happen –
The look which says it all
When a diagnosis is made,
The mutual understanding
Of shared knowledge,
The empathy of love,
The personal sharing,
The silent moment
Beyond all science,
Which can never be put in books
How ever long and learned.

Monday 21st January 2013

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I have only read about a few artists so far, but, already, how different they all are as regards painting style, interests, political opinions and so forth. One thing that intrigues me is how their paintings can be beautiful and even spiritual while the lives they live can be anything but. Take Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), one of the founders of the Pre-Rapaelite Brotherhood whose aim was to escape from the lifeless conventions, as they saw it, which stemmed from the 16th century master Raphael. Rossetti loved to paint beautiful women and he did this successfully. He seemed to have a very idealistic idea of women. This ardour for ideal beauty can be seen in some of his earlier religious paintings such as The Girlhood of the Virgin Mary 1849 and The Annunciation 1850. It is sad then that a person who could portray the spiritual and the beautiful in others should abuse his own body through alcohol and drug use. He became old before his time and because his hands shook he was unable to paint. He died at the relatively young age of 53.

Jean Ingres

In contrast to Rossetti, the French painter Jean Ingres (1780-1867) was a great admirer of Raphael and championed the classical ideal. He won the prestigious Prix de Rome and studied in Rome. He was looked up to as a defender of traditional artistic values against the blossoming Romantic movement. He lived to the age of 86 and painted till the end of his life.

Whistler and his mother

To look at James McNeill Whistler’s reserved and sombre well-known Portrait of the Painter’s Mother 1871 one would think that he might have been a dull character; but no, not at all. As a man he was flamboyant, belligerent and mocking and as a painter he was the opposite: on canvas he was subtle, careful and thoughtful. Harmony of colour and composition was important for him. His mother was very pious and she hoped her son would become a minister but he had no desire for such work. One wonders what his mother thought of her son, who lived the life of a Bohemian artist. When she came to live with him in London his mistress discreetly moved to nearby lodgings. As with many artists, we see the order and beauty of the paintings contrasting with the turbulent private life.