It is an almost certain truth that at the age of twenty your work pension seems the most boring thing in the world. As I approach my mid 50s I increasingly find it a subject of fascination and importance. It is a sad fact that for me I have actually found it interesting for some time. During my Mallett years I was often working around Christmas - everyone else lived in the country whilst I lurked in London. During three days when it was pointless being open I did the online pension trustee course. It was both boring and difficult, like VAT! But the holiday for others ended and freshly qualified I joined the pension trustees and have been there ever since - even after leaving Mallett. Following the recent turbulence it has been a great concern that the pension was not being suitably attended to and so we had a trustee meeting. We formed an impressive team - two ex-employees and one on notice. My dog Mosca attended as an impartial witness. Two hours passed and it seemed as if time had stood still, we slipped seemlessly back into our roles as company men, despite the absurdity of the situation. We cannot escape our trusteeship and the burden of maintaining the pension remains a worry that we can do little to ameliorate.
By way of contrast that evening Esther and I headed to the beautiful wreck of a church known as the Asylum which is more prosaically the Caroline Gardens Chapel. It is in South London and is the centrepiece of a group of early 19th century neo-classical buildings, almshouses; in fact rest homes for retired pub landlords. Sadly it was bombed during the Second World War and though losing its roof and much of the interior - it has survived, but never been restored beyond stabilisation. Our hosts Iain and Richard Abell are the brothers who founded Based Upon. Their work is hard to describe as it is generally a mixture of furniture and wall panels, all mainly of metal and employing modern technology to create unusual finishes, patterns and surfaces. In tandem they integrate in the work biographical details of the commissioning client, both specific and abstract. In something of a departure they have been commissioned to create a completely new technology version of the Last Supper. This they have done through choosing a cast of characters and using 3D photography to record them and then fashion the figures in bronze. All very high tech stuff. We attended the unveiling of the work in the chapel accompanied by biblical style snacks and red wine drunk from terracotta beakers, serenaded by a chap who played and sang unearthly resonant tunes on instruments straight out of the Star Wars bar. It was a very effective and memorable event and the techniques they have learnt and employed will colour and inform their future projects.
To accompany my attendance of the recent Battersea decorative fair I sent out two emails of highlights from the stand. Now because I am a bit of a chump I got my friend Samuel to prepare them and all I had to do was send them out. Cleverly, I got the order wrong and sent the one intended for the eve of the show out first - a week early. Various friends and clients berated me and one poor person turned up at the show venue and was turned away to the amusement of the team there - but unsurprisingly not by her. Anyway, the errant email inspired a purchase and we went to deliver the items and have a drink with the new owner. Luckily they looked good in situ and we passed a delightful evening reminiscing about the past. She is in her 80s and whilst she can look back; her main interest is looking forward and planning her next travel adventure - and helping us plan ours.
My son Inigo has a show celebrating the end of his foundation course at Camberwell. On Saturday we went to see his piece. We began by priming ourselves with breakfast at our local cafe. The Parma Cafe on Kennington road is a beautiful survival from the late 60s with red plastic bucket seats, murals of Greek gods and period condiment dispensers. They even have an old school frothy coffee maker which modern baristas would probably sneer at. It is true that it does make terrible coffee. But that is not the point, a 'Jumbo English' not only comes with plenty of everything but it is arranged on the plate like a careful still life, not one mushroom is dumped down, it is all ..... - perfect; just like you might get in fancy 3 star Michelin places. Slightly too full we cycled off and soon arrived to admire the video piece that has been his last few months work. Needless to say I was shocked. It has a soundtrack replete with smut and groaning and the visuals are a scary close up of his face. I have to admit that he has achieved something in that the work was both technically masterful and left his poor old dad reeling. What more could you ask for from art school?
Back home we headed off to Oxford to meet the artist Pat Rice, known professionally as Pat Albeck. You can listen to her recent desert island discs on the Iplayer. She is an old friend of Esther's and she has been working through the sadness of the death of her beloved Peter - husband of 50 years - by creating - for an exhibition - some fantastic work. These pieces are inspired and brightly colourful still lives all achieved in exquisite and virtuoso collage. She sits at her desk and looks at flowers with utmost intensity and somehow with coloured paper and a pair of nail scissors renders them. The end result is a remarkable fusion of craft and art together with echoes of Italian Pietra Dura and 17th century Spanish still lives. We drank champagne and ate lasagna and she was inspiringly positive and chatty despite the ever present silent shadow of her grief. I am sure her work will sell out but if any are left I hope to show them on my stand at the forthcoming Olympia Art and Antiques show in June.