Painting a Spitfire

I’ve been working very hard lately on a trio of oil paintings. Because oil paint takes quite a while to dry – particularly certain colours – I paint a section of one picture, then go to the next one, and on to the third. This is to avoid me smudging the work. This is one of the paintings about a third completed. When it’s finished it will show the Spitfire in the foreground as if it has just taxied along the side of the river at Henley. In the far background (on the other side of the river) will be a whole line of Dunkirk Little Ships moored on the riverbank. And on the river itself will be ‘L’Orage’ – one of the Dunkirk Little Ships once owned by Raymond Baxter. Raymond assembled a fleet of 43 of the original Dunkirk Little Ships in May 1965 to mark the 25th anniversary of ‘Operation Dynamo’ to return to Dunkirk to commemorate the epic evacuation of the BEF in 1940. I’ve crewed on ‘L’Orange’ several times with Raymond (although not across to France) and flown in this Spitfire. Hopefully I’ll finish the painting in time to make it my Christmas card this year, but this may not be possible as I have a lot of work on right now.

Last Saturday my young friend and I went to the Palladium in London to see the musical ‘The King and I’. Luckily it was quite a quiet day in London and we found a car park in Regent street – the nearest to the theatre. The King and I has always been one of my favourite musicals – especially as I lived in Thailand for many years in the ’60’s, and was the technical advisor to the Henley Operatic Society’s production of the show some years ago. This production was quite lavish – especially the costumes, which were amazing. I only wish the seats in London theatres gave more room as my knees were tight against the row in front. By contrast the seats in our local Henley cinema are really wide and so well spaced I can sprawl out with real comfort.

Well now both my eyes have had the cataracts removed and Toric lenses inserted. I am really impressed as my sight is so good now I can read the second line from the bottom on the optician’s eye chart. (I’ve never managed lower than about the eighth line from the bottom before – even with powered glasses). With no cataracts any more everything is much brighter and without glasses I can see well into the distance. No more ghost or double images. These are the best operations I have ever had – and completely painless. I’d recommend it to anyone with cataracts forming and especially people suffering from astigmatism.

This was the scene the other day when my goddaughter Emma repeated her wedding vows at a riverside ceremony at Shiplake where her mother Felicity lives. Several nice poems were read out by friends and later in the evening we all sat down to dinner in a beautiful open-sided tent

We didn’t stay for the dancing as I was still recovering from a heavy cold and loss of appetite. Earlier in the afternoon boat trips were given to some of the guests.

Yesterday I had a little three year old girl here to be photographed in preparation for a miniature portrait. About four years ago I painted a miniature of her little brother when he was her age. I remember he posed beautifully. But his sister was a real little squirmer. Such a delightful and pretty little girl, everything her mother did didn’t seem to work. I just snapped away as she put her hands in her mouth, wriggled backwards off the chair, waved at me, her mother,and her grandmother. We tried everything including singing songs to her (her mother – not me). I took well over 50 photographs before eventually going to the computer room to see if any were possibly suitable. I couldn’t quite believe it but out of all the photographs there was just one. And to look at this one you’d think she had sat perfectly still for the whole session. So we were all delighted and now I can plan for the painting.

Oh yes – I reached the finals of the Bowling Club’s ‘Novices’ competition last week. It was a really close game. With four woods each the first person to reach 21 points wins the game. At one stage I was winning with 19 points to 15. My opponent said I was on my way to winning, but I said that I invariably lose out in the last few bowls. He won the next three ends and we were level at 20/20. So the final end would be the decider. And so it was as one of my woods was about an inch closer to the jack. Whew! So next weekend I’ll be aiming to win the trophy. However my opponent has a very good reputation as an excellent player so I’m not expecting to win.

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