What’s the worst thing about living in rural Wales? The weather? I like a bit of wildness. No, for me it’s the the work opportunities you take for granted living in a big city… I mean, for some people. Not for everyone.
When we first moved here almost eleven years ago into our big house (which we sold three years later and used the money to buy a boat called Quest instead :)), we used to still get post from the previous owners. Mostly we threw it away.. except for this one letter. We always opened it and read the contents inside with gusto. It was the Masonic Times of Mid-Wales. Like a rich-list, ‘come-and-get-your-jobs-here and hob-nob-with-the-big-boys’ newsletter. Well, the farm-y big boys. Still, it was awesome to read, a glimpse into the life of privilege around here. Like a kind of dirty secret wrapped up in print.
Living in Wales does have its surprises though. For example, Delph attends an art group based in the Arts Centre in Aberystwyth. They meet once a month and spend the day following an artist’s work, replicating it in some way. Last month, they looked into an exhibiting artist called Georgie Meadows. She’s a trained occupational therapist who stitches her subjects.. sewing their faces onto a mounted cloth. Her subjects are often elderly and vulnerable, patients with restricted mobility, challenging them to look after themselves. With simple needlework illustrating a face, a profile or the bend of the back, Georgie Meadows catches their burden. It is emotional work. Still, even with the expertise, you think that Delphine wanted to go that day? It was her first time at the art group… and well, you know. It was ok though; at the end of the day I had to drag her home! Lovely, just lovely.
So, the art group’s next trip is on the train next week to another small town nearby; Newtown. They’re visiting a gallery and having Christmas dinner. I don’t know why the travel? Just for fun I guess… In the meantime, a new exhibition has opened at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It’s by a sculptor called Andrew Logan. If you read his online bio, it starts by saying that Andrew Logan belongs to a unique school of English eccentrics. Hmmm I thought. Not quite rural Wales. Then Rachael from the Arts Centre called up and said if we wanted free tickets, we could have them for the opening event.
‘Like a talk?’ I asked, imagining the well-heeled sipping wine and listening to the artist describe his experience of meaning.
She coughed slightly. ‘Not quite. It’s going to be an extravaganza.’
Extravaganza.. riiight. To be honest, when Saturday night came, neither Delphine or I wanted to go. The drizzle that evening had become driving. Jack and Lulu outright ditched us… hold on, I don’t think we even considered them going in the first place. Anyhow, the night was giving off one of those bad horror movie vibes where the scary person could be hiding in the darkness… except that no self-respecting crazy person would be outside in this weather. Finally we forced ourselves to leave the bungalow, swinging past Aaliyah’s house (who we’d successfully bribed with a sleepover) and headed up to the Arts Centre.
Was it an extravaganza? It was like nothing I’d been to before. We discovered that night that Aberystwyth has a pretty decent samba band. The exhibition itself was full of colour and fun. But that wasn’t even the focal point. Andrew Logan had organised a fashion show with local people as models. Not that you could recognise them – they sashayed and swagged their way around in full costume, covered with jewellery, toga-style clothes and body paint. A thin man in a long green dress blew a herald with a red standard. He had on sunglasses with painted holographic eyes. Andrew Logan himself was dressed as the king. He carried around a rolled-up red carpet, wore a pelt on his shoulders and a crown on his head that was woven into his hair. This guy’s like in his 70s. He smiled as if he might explode with happiness.
If this exhibition opening had been in London, I can’t help but feel that it’d be surrounded by an air of pretension. High-brow flamboyancy can go both ways like that. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been filled with pretension here too. But there was something stopping it, like the constant Welsh rain and wind blows away the clouds of pretension. We were left with just joyous and of course, completely wacky.
In January, Delph’s art group will be working with Andrew’s Logan’s sculptures… and coming up with an inspired piece of their own.
‘Are you looking forward to it Delph?’ I asked, as a person with a silver bird nose put a star-shaped mirror in our faces before shimmying away.
She gritted her teeth. ‘Thanks. I can’t wait.’