Thursday, 27 June 2019

It was possibly on an Easter Monday walk in woodland that I was bitten - whether by a spider or an insect, I may
never know. 

FRIDAY:  I feel dreadful. My right leg is aching and I am shivery and shaky. I haul myself up to the open surgery
at our wonderful GP practice (Menston, Leeds) where I nearly collapse at reception and am ushered to a vacant
room away from the waiting area. I sit in a grey chair next to a treatment bed and feel sorry for myself.
I’ve brought a book, I have my phone, but I just can’t to anything other than concentrate on not climbing onto the
bed and falling asleep. An hour later my name is called and I am diagnosed with 'cellulitis', possibly caused by
an insect bite. This means the bacteria living under the skin had become infected. I also have a fever and with the last remaining ounce of strength I struggle to the chemists to collect antibiotics then it’s home and Netflix and ill. 
The fever subsides, helped with paracetamol, but it’s just the beginning for my leg. I was not prepared for the
agony of attempting to get out of bed for my 2am/3am/4am etc wee. As I lowered my poorly leg to the floor, the
blood rushed to the infected area and I experienced a shock of pulsating pain as if my lower limb had been set
on fire. With help and a walking stick, I half screamed and half shuffled my way to the loo.
I would like to mention my brother here, who suffered a debilitating stroke three years ago. He has been left
paralysed on one side, and when he - a few years younger than me at 53 - has to go to the loo in the night, he
has to strap on some device to his leg to send electrical impulses so that he can move. I bore his struggle in
mind as over the next week I faced nightly challenges which were the worst.
TUESDAY:  My leg now sported a red blistered band around the lower half. It looked like creatures were living
inside the blistery lumps waiting to spurt forth a l’Alien. I returned to the surgery where I was prescribed steroid
cream and told to return if things got worse. 
Aside from the ugly fiery bubblewrap abomination which seemed to be growing on my leg, I attempted to go
about my day to to day business. It wasn’t painful, as such; more annoying, tight, prickly and burning. When
a week had passed, I could stand it no longer and decided to update my status on Facebook.

But the responses were very interesting:

Ooh cellulitis is nasty. Hope it clears up soon. Exercise is certainly very dangerous.

Get well soon, hope you have antibiotics, I had to go to hospital for intravenous antibiotics for two weeks takes
ages to clear up. Walking helps that's what the consultant that I had said, and it did help me, just in your local
area, not woodland where there are

oh how I sympathise. I had that on holiday in the Lake District. We were so worried that the night I got home
we went to A&E and saw emergency GP there. I had a course of antibiotics and it cleared up really quickly.

Then I posted a picture. 

OMG that's bad,
ugh that is way worse than mine was
ohh that’s nasty , and that’s from a hardened nurse! Best practice is 3 weeks antibiotics for cellulitis so if not
significantly better by the time course finished go back to gp. If it spreads go back ASAP. You can draw a line in
pen so you can check.

Back to the surgery. I finished my course of antibiotics (ALWAYS FINISH THE COURSE, BOYS AND GIRLS) but
now my foot had swollen and was painful. The leg itself would have been at home in a forest.  Chance would
have it, I saw the same medical practitioner for the third time and felt obliged to mumble: er sorry, must be sick
of the sight of me. She looked at my sorry mess. “It’s still radiating heat,” she said comfortingly, and prescribed
me another course of antibiotics. Humbled, I went on my way.

SATURDAY: A busy weekend, running art workshops for children at in an art event. This meant being on my feet
for quite a while which probably didn’t help. 
SUNDAY: Word of the day is ‘suppurating’. Yellow liquid is now oozing from the blisters. I can only assume it is
part of the healing process - the discomfort of standing is still akin to feeling as if a zombie is squeezing my leg. 
I’ve been trying to get on with things and it’s ok ish when I’m walking and when I’m resting with it raised. But if
I stop still .. AAAARGH! Still very painful, as the blood rushes to the injured area, sparking a burning sensation
which can only be relieved by shaking the leg or sitting down with it raised. 

I am really starting to hate my leg.

I had to get a train today and decided to take for reading material: “On the Suffering of the World”, essays by
Arthur Schopenhauer. I’ve read this before and it’s recommended reading for anyone who is in pain or is
suffering, The ostensible message is, you’re human, you suffer, get over it.
But it is comforting reading:
“As a rule we find pleasure much less pleasurable, and pain much more painful than expected.”
“Not least the torments which plague our existence is the constant pressure of time, which never lets us so
much as draw a breath but pursues us all like a taskmaster with a whip. It ceases to persecute only him it has
delivered over to boredom.”

Today’s word is crusty; I saw a tweet that some celebs had made cheese with their skin bacteria. If they want an
Edam style wrap, my leg would be a good model. 
I’ve been doing my best to do nothing; ostensibly watching TV with my leg raised on a towel, pillow, several
cushions and a footstool. It seems to have helped… the gin too.

FRIDAY: Back to the open surgery which runs from 8.30am to 10.15am - if you turn up any time then you will
get seen, eventually. I arrive at 9.30am to a crowded waiting room, someone kindly gives me their seat when
they see me limping. It is nearly 11.30 before my name is called a different doctor takes one look at my leg and
says he wants me to be seen at hospital. The antibiotics have not helped the infection to “turn the corner”, he
says, and thinks I may need intravenous treatment. Oh joy. So I set off by train to the Leeds General Infirmary
and take a taxi for the final uphill part. On arrival I am sent to the emergency waiting area where, after an initial
assessment by a nurse who says the best case scenario is a cannula, intravenous treatment and overnight
stay.I then wait nearly two hours before being seen by a second nurse who takes blood samples and assures
me I won’t have to wait too much longer. Maybe another hour passes and I am called by the young doctor who
takes me into a cubicle and asks me how this happened. I repeat my story. She says she needs to check the
treatment guidelines and returns with a senior doctor who cursorily looks at my leg and says: “wound care”.
He says the infection is healing but I will be left with a scar. “So I won’t be able to return to the catwalk?” I ask,
and flicker of a smile is his response. Another nurse comes to dress the wound and I am sent packing.

THREE WEEKS AFTER THE WALK: I see a nurse at my local surgery for wound dressing. Finally I get some
sympathy and reassurance! She says I no longer have cellulitis and that I need to keep the leg bandaged. All
those years of being told to expose a wound to fresh air have been overridden by new research which now
says it is best to keep it moist. Over the next two weeks I return to have my wound redressed. I also see yet
another doctor who prescribes me painkillers and is concerned as to why I had such a severe reaction to the

A few days after my leg is kept wrapped up, the wound is starting to heal.
It is nearly six weeks following the fateful woodland walk before I finally stop having wound care. I present the
nurse with a bunch of flowers and a card to thank her for her support. I mention that I wish I had been told at
the outset that it could possibly get worse and drag on for weeks. I found plenty of information on the internet
about cellulitis but nothing about how or why it had gone from bad to worse once the infection had been dealt

As the doctors and nurses commented, I had simply been ‘unlucky’. Even now, as I return to taking my
general health for granted, I am at least left with a large shiny patch on my leg to remind me of my human
vulnerability. A little walk in woodland turned into a six-week recovery from a random bite. 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Chipping away - to find an invisible woman

Otley, the town adjacent to where I live, is celebrating the 300th birthday of its famous son Thomas Chippendale. There's loads of stuff going on to mark the furniture maker's life - tours, talks, events - even an ale has been named in his honour: Chippend'Ale.
While I have no issue with Otley parading its pride in Tom, there are two significant others who, in my opinion, stand out due to their apparent insignificance. His wives.

Thomas married Catherine Redshaw in 1748 and Wikipedia states "and they had five boys and four girls." Catherine died in 1772; in 1777 he married Elizabeth Davis and "fathered three more children". There is plenty of information on Thomas Chippendale on the 'net; unsurprisingly not so much - in fact virtually nothing - on the women who popped out his offspring. Catherine is mentioned on, as being a wife and mother, listing the names of her nine children. Elizabeth can also be found on the same site where her life is also reduced to a summary consisting of her birth date, death date and names of children.

Of course this is no surprise. Throughout history, the roles of women have been belittled, ignored and erased. Women have always been 50% of the population, but only feature in around 0.5% of recorded history. Dr Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, author and broadcaster, puts this down to the expansion of civilisations. "At the birth of civilised society, you have these very highly productive and sophisticated, settlements, with women having great status; they are high priestesses, they have property rights and own land, they write poetry- but these new civilisations want to expand. So – broadly speaking – when that happens, what you need is muscle power, and society becomes more militarised. The balance of power shifts."

So while men leave their wives and children at home to go off to battle, to fight other men who have left their wives and children at home, military power and macho posturing muscle in on the lives of women, diminishing their roles and enforcing the rules of patriarchy.

For at least 3,500 years, the stories of women have been written out of history. In art, business, politics, architecture, medicine and so on, it's the men who are remembered in books and on Wikipedia. 18th century British statesman Lord George Lyttelton, in his poem Advice the a Lady, 1773 advised:

Seek to be good, but aim not to be great;
A woman's noblest station is retreat.

Behind every great man there's a great woman was adopted as a slogan for the 1960/70s feminist movement, first having been used in the 1940s. Less used in more recent years as the imagery of women being behind men is open to misinterpretation.

"A woman's place is in the home."
"Men make houses, women make homes."

Catherine and Elizabeth were real people. They were living, breathing women whose gender imprisoned them, for better or for worse, into a life of domestic chores, breeding and child rearing. While Thomas was out showing off his posh furniture, they were most probably stuck at home up to their arms in laundry, food preparation and dirty nappies (or whatever the alternative was at the time).
We only ever hear about the women in the lives of famous men due to their sprogging abilities; they fade into the background as their husbands enjoy the limelight.

As an artist and researcher, I have taken the example of Catherine to create an 'invisible woman' out of Perspex. Catherine is part of my MA graduation show.

My work combines Perspex creations of women in iconic artworks and theoretical research into the implied sexism written by curators for art gallery wall labels for paintings of women artists and sitters.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Gross or not

Check out 'George Gross', advised my tutor, and I dutifully obliged.
We had been discussing my next academic essay, a 5000 word synopsis of Dada, the YBAs and MAVA. *  I had also talked about my lastest creative work using photoshop.
Typing into my pc at home, I discovered George Gross - a pulp fiction artist who lived from 1909 to 2003. Hmm, I wonder what this has to do with Dada etc I thought as my screen filled with images not unlike the saucy postcards I recalled seeing on seaside holidays. Nonplussed, I was however inspired by this artwork that I don't think I had come across before and thus created:

After having a bit of fun, I went back to find out more about George only to discover that there was actually another artist called ... George Grosz. This George lived from 1893 to 1959  was the one my tutor had meant as he had connections to Dada. His paintings appeared to me to have elements of collage and anti-art, which appealed.

Coincidentally, it looks as if both Georges enjoyed objectifying the women/the female body in their works so I've decided to do a bit of role play and swap them around to redress the balance.

Here's to George and George.

 MAVA. * For more information see

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Leaky Roof art show at Bradford College

It was a perfect title for an art show.
Leaky Roof, presented by students at Bradford School of Art, was so named due to the water which flooded the studio whenever it rained heavily. On the day of the preview in June,it had been sunny and there was little trace of the streams of water which had threatened to turn the event into a damp squib, apart from one or two strategically placed buckets beside the artworks.
Dealing with inclement weather was only one of the obstacles which students of fine art had grappled with in the months leading up to the show. The head technician who in previous years had been vital to the show's preparation had quit two weeks previously; and there was a dearth of tutors - due to sickness and retirement. Only one tutor had been available - albeit forced to work extra hours - to oversee the setting up of the culmination of students' three years of hard work.
Two days before the show was due to open, one student approached the head of the school to plead for something to be done. Water was leaking through the roof and pooling around the digital prints which he had been preparing for display.
An artist prepares her work for display amid
flood issues
The gutters were blocked, he was told, and then the usual mantra - there's no money for repairs.
Bradford College recently spent £50 million on creating its new Hockney building and the new Advanced Technologies Centre with  the view that the new campuses would "continue the College’s ongoing commitment to positively contribute to the regeneration of Bradford, its people and its industries." The new buildings are shiny and new and when it rains, the roofs do not leak.
The art school, however, is based in the Lister Building which dates back to the early 1900s. Despite undergoing a £2.8m refurbishment to accommodate a cafĂ© and exhibition area, the roof still leaks. The buckets catching drips could be mistaken as artwork. Toilets are often closed as they are inaccessible due to the puddles of water.
Despite too much water and too few tutors, this year's event was nonetheless a showcase of talent with work created by BA art students displayed alongside fashion, graphics, textiles and 3D make-up and effects. (However, the textile show had to be moved from its regular spot in the exhibition gallery to the cafe to avoid the leaks.)
Art photographer and sculptor Charman Clark created 'Brompton -Behind Closed Doors', an eerie yet intriguing look at houses. Along with her sublime digital images and laser cut edifices, Charman hid models of five handmade ceramic houses in various locations near her home. Visitors were able to log on to her website for the co-ordinates and if found, were asked to post a picture on her website.
Ian Dashper stripped away layers to look at gender in his breathtaking display which comprised of large digital screenprints and full-sized porcelain casts of a 'female' and 'male' shoe. Ann Driver, who came to the end of her part-time course after six years in the art college, focused on empathy and her ceramic hanging 'rags' stir up emotions with their bleak beauty.
Krzysztof Olejniczak created a 'ghost of forest' painting as a homage to his father, who worked as a woodcutter for many years. He also made an eye-catching slice of miniature life with tiny model people depicted on various floors in a building, looking at pictures in an art gallery, lying face-down on a bed, and in the shower. Apryl Sharp's ethereal collages offer hints of Victoriana while Pauline Cooke's lines and squiggles were delicately presented on fabric.

Charman Clark

Ann Driver 

Krzysztof Olejniczak

Ian Dashper

Apryl Sharp

Krzysztof Olejniczak

Water, water, everywhere