Giddily, my laughing head tilted back, my arms were thrown upwards as I gave a Gaynor-twirl.
Gaynor-twirls are not always successful. Often instead of going in a perfect round spin, my body teeters, leaning Tower of Pisa like, and then plummets to end up in a most undignified heap. This time however, my body did a Tower of Pisa lean, wobbled to the correct angle and finished in a Gaynor-twirl of perfection! I will leave the style of that perfection to your imagination!!!
“I love being in Hampstead,” I cried.
Hampstead seems to have a buzz about it. My friend, B and I left the home where we were staying and headed straight for our breakfast haunt, Le Pain Quotient. It is a charming little coffee shop that seems to have a golden glow of warmth inviting you in. We always head straight for the same table that looks out onto the busy street. What a blissful way to begin our day. Sipping hot chocolate, devouring a warm, crispy. buttery almond croissants and planning the day ahead.
Leaving the coffee shop, my eyes lit upon an antique shop about fifty metres away.
“Oh, B, I know I can barely afford to ‘breathe’ in there, but please, I have to go in.”
We passed through these luxurious old green curtains that had bells attached. The owner, a red haired, green eyed woman, alerted by the bells, looked up at us.
“May we just look around? I can’t afford to buy anything but this shop simply enticed me?”
The owner laughed. “Look around all you like,” she said in this gorgeous Irish accent.
What glorious and splendid treasures met my eyes in that trove of a shop. A eighteenth century silver box that would have looked so perfect on my dressing table. It was going for £523. A touch out of my price range!
We wandered around Hampstead and discovered a quaint bookshop. How I love bookshops. This was my favourite kind because it was a second hand shop. It had old books peeping shyly down at me from atop their shelves. Right at the back, on the fifth shelf there was an red book that seemed to be beckoning to me.
“Yes, come nearer, come on,” it seemed to say, “you’ll like what I contain between my covers.”
I reached for the book and it slipped between my fingers and fell open onto the floor.
“Glory, I’m sorry!” I said to the shop assistant as I gently picked it up. “Oh, it’s Yeats,” I said.
The book had fallen open on He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven.
“Gosh, this was one of the first poems I learned at drama school. After my fall, it was a poem that I managed to re-learn.”
“Say it for me,” B asked curious.
I shut my eyes briefly and from somewhere inside of me the word came tumbling out:
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark clothes
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.
On our way to Belsize Park tube station, we took a short cut up a pathway that snakes past the Royal Free Hospital where construction work was under way. Hoardings had been erected with a startling difference. That was when I saw them. The paintings!A 30-metre-long outdoor gallery with impressive large scale reproductions of paintings imprinted all the way. I drew in my breath sharply and simply stared. They were laminated paintings that were of Hampstead and other areas in London. They were startling in the striking colours and their vibrancy was almost stupefying. I moved from one painting to the next, drinking in the images shining out at me. On the last hoarding was a write up about the artist, Oliver Yu Chan. It began:
The paintings displayed here are by local artist, Oliver Yu Chan, born 8th December 1986, a young man on the autistic spectrum.
This artist was autistic.
I have a friend that has a young autistic daughter who I recently met. I came away knowing that I needed to understand this disorder more. Autism is an intricate developmental disorder. It is made up of social and communication difficulties. Self-stimulatory and repetitive behaviours result and narrow, overly-focused interests. I saw all this that day at my friends house. Her daughter was unable to talk and was perhaps thrown and disturbed by my presence. This resulted in incredibly repetitive behaviour. There is a school of thought that seeks to manage and control it. There are also those that see autism as a neuro-diversity that needs to be understood. Once understood, then the person’s potential can be realised. This I believe is the method Oliver Yu Chan’s mother took.
As a young child, Oliver had very little speech and language and couldn’t sit still. He was perpetually on the move. He had many ‘obsessions’. His mother, Caroline, was always keen to encourage artistic interests as way of diverting him. She presented her child with a picture of a hedgehog.
“Oliver, do you see this picture of a hedgehog? Try and copy it,” she coaxed.
Oliver, whose attention was always flipping from one thing to another, looked at the picture, slowed down and began to draw. He recreated it beautifully. He looked at his picture and he smiled. As he later said: “That was the beginning of my ‘Amazing Journey in Art’.”
Oliver ‘speaks’ to the world through his paintings. I have found more of his art on the internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was there that I discovered one of my favourite paintings. It was done in 2018 and is simply called: Freud Museum London in Swiss Cottage. It is merely a picture of a house with a car parked outside. Yet it speaks to me of the artist. A man who sees our world as a place of colour and vibrancy. Isn’t his sky ringing and shouting beauty into the world?
Hampstead sparkles with an energy and vigour that stimulates me. We boarded the tube and the doors shut on Hampstead.
“If I were to live in England, B, there is no doubt in my mind that I would live in Hampstead.”
“Oh, you of champagne taste, you would never be able to afford it!”
“Ahhhh, but I would choose a ‘partner’ who would,” I joked back. “Or, you never know, I might win the Lottery!”
Hampstead, brilliant, glorious Hampstead!!!