Sunday, 21 January 2018

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART FIVE

As some of you will know, I send out a Mailchimp newsletter about the book I am writing - the biography of Jago Stone - at the beginning of the month. There are fifty or so subscribers to this Newsletter and the idea is that they get to read my up-dates first - and then I can repeat some of the Newsletter content in a blog later. What follows in this blog is taken from the January Mailchimp newsletter - but also has some additional material. If you would like to join the list of subscribers - it's free - all you have to do is complete a short form on the 'Jago' page of my website. Press the link here. 

'I love the connections between America and England that feature Jago - and  I'm sure he would too. He wrote in 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion': "A large number of the personnel (at USAF Upper Heyford) take home my paintings of the Cotswolds when their tour of duty ends. There are innumerable Jago Stone works of art in Texas, Alabama, California, New Mexico, Washington - and there are even a couple of pictures of Banbury Cross on Sunset Boulevard. It seems like a joke, but I can lay claim to being an international artist." (P.118)



This water-colour of Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, was painted in 1976 for Marie-Elena (Laina) and Rick Baker when they were stationed at RAF Croughton. Laina made Facebook contact with me in February 2017 and sent this image across the Pond.
 
Now in January 2018, thanks to Facebook once more, I can regale you with further tales and images from an amazing period between mid-November and mid-December 2017 in the cyberspace story of Jago's American Connections. 

Three Facebook groups - for USAF Upper Heyford veterans and friends - accepted my membership and posts. On one day alone, American Connection 1 - the blog that I first posted in early December 2016 - had 511 viewings, most of them from across the Pond. Over the next four weeks, I received Facebook messages from the United States gifting me more stories and images of yet more paintings that hang on walls in homes in American states. Special thanks, then, to the 'RAF Upper Heyford' and 'RAF Upper Heyford Brats and Friends' and 'Remembering RAF Upper Heyford 1950/1994' websites for letting me join and re-post my American Connection blogs.

Below is an image of a Jago Stone poster that he produced and published in 1976. Duane Park - 20th SPS, Nov.1976-Nov.1978 - used his own photo of this poster as an illustration on the Upper Heyford Memorial Web Site "Gone but Not Forgotten". He wrote: 'I wasn't able to buy one of these at the time as they were always sold out, but before I left I took this picture of it.' My thanks to Marie Mazy Cooper in Florida for sending me this image of the original poster that she did buy and take back to the United States. .




Here is some text from the first draft of Chapter 7 The American Connection in 'Jago' that tells the story of these four weeks of contacts: 
 
In mid-November 2017, one Saturday tea-time, I contacted on Facebook the three websites created and used by those – mostly American veterans - who had served on or had some contact with the Upper Heyford air base. I explained that I was writing the biography of Jago Stone and re-posted my first American Connection blog with its picture of Becky Bender’s English home, painted by Jago in 1983.  By midnight, that re-posted blog had had 168 views. The views for Sunday, the next day, were 511. Truly a gold-rush in cyber-space!

 I had asked for memories of Jago - stories - and images of paintings. They came in abundance.

From C L Kolodny, now living in Premont, Texas, there was this story:

“Lived in Merton, near Bicester in an old stone cottage near to the Plough, a free house owned and operated by Lou Bevan. One day I was there drinking pints of Hooky when a phantom with a small entourage flew in. I thought I had gone back in time and encountered Oscar Wilde. This guy was a real character. We drank and talked for a couple of hours and he departed never to be seen again. This chance encounter was so electric and mystical that I have thought about it many times over the years. It was a Sunday afternoon in 1980 or 1981.”



I asked if there were any other specifics that he remembered.



“(Just) the flamboyant dress, intense facial expressions, rapid intellectual mainly one-way conversation.”



All this, from “a brief encounter leaving a real memory”.



 
This image came from Marie Mazy Cooper - a Jago water-colour of the village of Wardington and its vicarage where she and her husband resided during their UK tour at Upper Heyford.

 

Marie Mazy Cooper, now resident in Sarasota in Florida, also left this comment:

“My husband and I were stationed at our RAF Heyford and lived in Wardington. Jago knocked on our door one night in 1975 to ask to paint the Vicarage we lived in. We were told he was a thief and not to allow him in and that had stolen from churches and spent time in prison …  But we did and became friends … he had such great stories and we have 2 beautiful paintings of our beautiful Vicarage. Afterwards, we introduced him to a number of friends stationed with us to have their homes painted … he was a character you could never forget.”



A few days later, in response to my question: “What stories did he tell?”, Marie added:

“Jago had so many wonderful stories about his life as a thief stealing from the churches … he met many Air Force members and painted all their homes.”

Andrea Pyne sent me this surprise - a Jago snowscape.   




Andrea, from Luray in Virginia, in fact sent me two pictures, explaining that “These are the ones I have from my parents. We were there from ‘77 to ’81“. One is the only winter snow scene I have seen of Jago’s – ‘First Snow – The Cotswolds’; and the other the only Yorkshire landscape of Jago’s I have encountered – ‘High Withens – Haworth Moor – The original of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” -  Yorkshire: West Riding – Inspired by the Artist’s dedication to the Life of Emily Bronte’.  

 

 Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, now living in Oregon, Wisconsin, gifted me two paintings his mum had contracted Jago to paint: ‘Rose Cottage’ in the village of Turweston, Oxfordshire, dated 1979, and its parish church, dated 1980.  
 

 



The number of fruitful contacts made through the Upper Heyford websites has been extraordinary. Jago had in his lifetime recorded his pleasure at being an international artist thanks to the USAF American connection. I imagine him being delighted at the thought of his posthumous name resounding across the American states at the click of Internet buttons.'   

I promised readers of this blog some additional material. To start with, here's an update  on where i am in relation to the search for an agent/publisher. I acquired the indispensable volume - 'Writers' & Artists' Yearbook - 2018' - early in January, and then recycled my copy for 2014 which I used when i was at a similar stage with 'The Road to Corbyn', aka TRC. Copies of TRC, my first published work, are available by ordering from any bookseller - and also from this website by pressing here.   
So much for the plug. I do hope some of you will buy TRC - it's a good read and full of hope and helps make politics easy to understand. When I read the relevant sections of the Yearbook, I realised that my plan to seek an agent this month was premature. I had to complete all the book first - and I still have two chapters to write.
The Prologue and Chapters One to Eight are all finished in first draft form and some of these have been worked on again in the light of comments from my circle of readers, here and in the United States.  Chapters Nine and Ten should be put to bed by the end of February. So, March and the advent of Spring should see the search for a wider audience begin in earnest. And if I haven't said this before, now's a good time: one of the judges for a national biography prize wrote an email to me in September 2017 to say that she was sorry my proposal had not made the shortlist but:
"You have a fantastic story to tell, so I do wish you luck in finding a publisher and reaching the audience it deserves ... the story of 'Jago' needs to be more widely known." 
The omens for 'Jago' are looking good.
  

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

MIND MATTERS IN OUR CAPITALIST WORLD - PART TWO

Last week, in Part One of this post, I focused on the ideas of Professor Richard Bentall - for more press this link here. This week, in Part Two, I begin with the thoughts of his colleague, Peter Kinderman.

In February 2016, following Bentall's Open Letter to Stephen Fry with its telling presentation of the critical importance of social determinants in our psychological wellbeing, Kindermann and a group of colleagues, including Bentall, wrote a parallel Open Letter to the BBC and other media organisations about their inadequate coverage of mental health issues. Over a thousand mental health professionals and people who had experienced mental health problems soon signed their letter in which a critique was set out concerning the coverage of mental health in the recent BBC 'In the Mind' series.



Their primary complaint was that the BBC programmes seemed to suggest that psychiatric medication - drug treatment - should be the main, if not the only, treatment for mental health problems. They pointed out that such a message is harmful because it potentially leads to hopelessness, despair and prejudice and discrimination. And they also expressed concern about the long-term efficacy and safety of those drugs. To simply promote medication without also presenting other approaches such as psychological therapy is biased and irresponsible.

The letter concluded with the plea that as a matter of urgency the BBC commission a similarly high-profile programme featuring professionals and service users who adopt the alternative approach that the letter has outlined. The Director of the BBC, Tony Hall, responded with a brief note signifying little or nothing in March 2016; my Google searches have shown no further action by the BBC. What

Sunday, 31 December 2017

MIND MATTERS IN OUR CAPITALIST WORLD - PART ONE

There is nothing controversial in stating we live in a global world shaped by capitalism. So what is this capitalism, this capitalist economy? Let me borrow from the explanation of Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge economist of remarkable sanity and sense, in his Pelican 'User's Guide to Economics' (2014): 'Capitalism ... is an economy in which production is organised in pursuit of profit ...'. Of course, beyond this truism matters become more problematic.

Capitalism is a slippery-eel kind of word. It has different meanings to different people - and there has been change over time. I don't hear Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of a Labour Party pledged to reverse the dire consequences of neoliberal Tory-inspired misgovernment since 2010 calling for the overthrow of Capitalism in the name of Socialism. What I heard at Heartlands in Cornwall, listening to him speak, was a call for a socialism fit for the 21st century. JC's socialism is a radical but pragmatic bid to ensure that the capitalist market is regulated to serve the best interests of the many and not the few. Profit alone should never be taken as the justification for financial or political action. People matter and must be a primary concern.

Unfortunately, things happen that are prejudicial to our good health when those who are driven by a singular pursuit of profit at any cost hold the strings of power. More and more people in the U.K are getting this truth - which is why the neoliberal Tory government are doing their level best to avoid another General Election. Universal suffrage is the hard-won achievement that remains the people's defence against those with the wealth and power to control and manipulate.



I have become more deeply conscious over this Christmas break of a rather dreadful way in which those who have wealth and power - consciously or unconsciously, or any combination of those extremes in the spectrum of human thought - are actually making our mental landscapes more disturbed. An article in a left-wing magazine of repute caught my attention. The magazine was the

Friday, 15 December 2017

ROBERT PIRSIG'S 'ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE' - CELEBRATING A MAVERICK PHILOSOPHER

'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert Pirsig was first published in 1974 and caused a literary sensation. It became a million-selling classic - one of the must-read books of the decade. I gave it my best shot but got no further than the first few pages. The narrative seemed tedious and the philosophy that was interwoven within the story too difficult for me to get my head round. I remember thinking that I needed to teach myself some philosophy before picking up Robert Pirsig again.



Decades rolled by and I did get an education in philosophy - part-time study at the University of East Anglia, one evening a week between 2003 and 2005, led to a Certificate in Philosophy. And that was followed by three years part-time study between 2006 and 2009 with the Open University which led to a M.A. in Philosophy. So the ground had been prepared when this year, in late April, I read an obituary for Robert Pirsig. He had died aged 88 at his home in Maine in the USA on Monday 24 April.

The Guardian had interviewed him in 2006 and Pirsig had said:
'It is not good to talk about Zen because Zen is nothingness. If you talk about it you are always lying,


Thursday, 7 December 2017

JAGO STONE ONLINE - IN THE SALESROOM AND THE STUDIO

Every month since August this year, I have produced a Mailchimp Newsletter for those who are interested in the Jago Stone story. The Newsletter is free - to get your copy, all you need to do is complete the simple form on this page - press here for the link. There are around fifty subscribers at present. I make sure there is novel material in the Newsletter that has not appeared before in my blogs.

Incidentally, when you look at the link you have just pressed, you will see that there are now twenty published Jago posts that I've written since January 2016, including the four American Connection blogs that have now been reissued through the websites of USAF Upper Heyford veterans. The first three of these four posts have gathered nearly 2,000 more views in the last three weeks. Jago was commissioned to paint pictures by scores of the American flying crew on tour over here - and these guys and their families took his work back across the Pond to hang in their own homes.

In the course of this blog, I would like to share with you the fruits of one of the 'gifts' that has come to me online. About three months ago, I got an email from Google informing me that there was an online auction coming up in which one of the Lots included paintings by Jago Stone. Apparently, at some point in the past, I has pressed a key to indicate that I wanted to be alerted if such a development occurred. I've never taken part in an auction before online - in fact, my first auction experience had been in Penzance earlier this year - see this blog here  - when I bid for the Jane Sand and Claire Healey paintings that now grace our walls. It proved to be an interesting experience. Here is one of the four fruits that came my way.


The School House of Piddletrenthide , Dorset - Jago Stone (1983)


I was told online that I could enter a bid in advance for the Lot 419 in which I now knew there were four Jago paintings and three other items. I had no further information about the nature of the other items, nor any details nor pictures of the Jago paintings. I was too busy to attempt to find out any

Sunday, 3 December 2017

ROB DONOVAN AND THE ST IVES RUNNING CIRCUIT - DOWN THE HILL

Yesterday's blog brought you up the hill. Now, with some delight and anticipation, I'm ready to turn round and make my descent. It takes around twenty minutes to reach the top; fifteen minutes to run back down - with faster or slower times depending on fitness, mood and weather conditions. There's a car parking area at the top of the hill and a National Trust 'Little Trevalgan' sign.

First glimpse of St Ives Bay in the distance - and a breath-taking realisation of how high the run has taken me


Making that turn, brings the sweeping panorama of the St Ives bay into view.

The town sign adds a sense of boundary - and now I'm looking across the bay to the Hayle sands - Godrevy is out there, the rock and lighthouse, a tiny white pillar highlighted by a bright winter sun


Running downhill has its own technique and pitfalls, as well as its singular joys. To be free and gifted with such views makes the heart sing - and sometimes I will release a whoop of pleasure. I am loathe ever to lose this wonder of motion and land- and sea-scape.


A view that speaks for itself - you might just be able to make out the tower of St John's in the Field, the church that I pass twice-a-day on the Ella dog-walk 


As for the dangers, I took a tumble this summer. I was around two-thirds down the hill running on the right-hand-side, facing on-coming traffic, wearing as ever my high-visibility top. I had already safely negotiated the couple of blind bends where I will cross over the road to maximise my chances of being seen by motorists. Coming towards me, and slowing, was an open-topped double-decker tourist bus. I could hear that there was a vehicle coming down the hill on the other side, also slowing. I slowed too. The bus had almost stopped as I gently jogged past it, my left shoulder almost touching its bodywork. It had such a presence. I lost my focus on the ground beneath me. Suddenly I was falling - instinctively to my right and into the undergrowth away from the bus. I landed well as I have done in past years when falling - and breathed a sigh of relief that my Fifth Year (Year 11) gym lessons had included a term of judo. I've learned the art of self-protection when thrown off-balance.

As I picked myself up and reassured the car-driver who had stopped behind the bus and got out to see that I was alright, I looked behind me and saw the pot-hole at the edge of the road. I had failed to observe the peril before sinking my foot into it and tumbling.

As you descend, the view of the sea shrinks until suddenly it has vanished.


By the time I passed the field where the mechanical hedge-cutter was at work, the guy in the cab had completed his work by the road-side and was engaged in cutting and trimming on the other side of the field. I reflected on how much has changed with the coming of this machine-culture. Once, those same hedges would have been shaped and cut and managed by local farm-hands, five or six or more working for a couple of days. Now the work is completed in a brutal but effective fashion by one man sitting in a cab manipulating levers in half-a-day's shift.


The sea has all but gone - and so too has the life in my battery. This turns out to be my last shot! Note the road-spray from the hedge-management. 

         
I am loving every minute of my descent down the hill but I am becoming anxious about my camera. I didn't check the battery before leaving and I have been turning it on and off rather a lot. Sure enough, I discover I am out of juice.


To bring this double blog - Up and Down the Hill to Little Trevalgan - to a conclusion, I thought it would be interesting to check my running diary and share with you how many times I have actually run this training circuit in a particular period of time. Remember, the intensive preparation for marathon and half-marathon races is done between Marazion and Mousehole along the coast - a fact that has suddenly sparked an idea for a photo-image blog in the future!

April 23 2017 - heading for the finishing-line in the London Marathon - a Cornish-trained boy comes home

In 2017, I've made this Little Trevalgan journey 44 times on 32 separate days - sometimes there have been double and occasionally triple circuits. This is the year when I've notched-up another London Marathon and another Oxford half-marathon. Thank you, my local training circuit, for your part in such adventures.




Saturday, 2 December 2017

ROB DONOVAN AND THE ST IVES RUNNING CIRCUIT - UP THE HILL

This blog gives me the opportunity to share some of the thoughts and feelings that I experience on my local training run. Today, I set out for a run with a difference knowing that it would be a record slow time. In fact it was 49 minutes; usually it takes from around 34 to 37 minutes depending on my fitness and the wind and the time of year ... and so on, by way of excuses. But I was clutching my camera in the palm of my hand and I had previously thought through my stopping places for camera shots. A cold and bright December day - the first of the month - a brilliant backcloth.

First stop, up the steep Stennack hill, to look across to the wooded area on the left just past the fire station and the Leach Pottery. Through the trees, in your imagination, to a bustling mining landscape 180 or so years ago. This is the site of St Ives Consols, developed on a large scale by James Halse in the 1820s and 1830s. The mine that made him a fortune - tin was selling at £35 per ton around 1810 and increased in value still further in later decades - contained some large and unusual ore formations known as 'carbonas', which when excavated, produced large caverns, whose roofs had to be supported by massive timbers. In April 1843 a workman's lighted candle stuck against a beam in the fabulously rich 'Great Carbona' and caused a disastrous fire which burned for six weeks, destroying that section of the mine. The mine closed in 1875 but some work continued in the upper levels after that. Total recorded returns - 1827-1892 - were recorded at £1,024,467, with tin production during this period amounting to 16,400 tons.

In your imagination, through the trees and down, hundreds of feet, below the ground ...


None of those miners would have lived to the age I am now. The mine owner and the share-holders most probably did.

Bearing right - onwards, up the hill - still a pavement on the left-hand side of the road for a few hundred yards

We've reached the junction at the top of the Stennack hill. Bear left for the A30 connection into Penzance. Carry on to the right taking the B3306, the coastal road to St Just twelve miles away. The hill continues upwards to the car parking lay-by at the summit, known as Little Trevalgan. I reckon it's about  a mile and three-quarters from our home to this Little Trevalgan turning-around point on my circuit.

The pavement is there still on the other side of the road


A hundred yards further on and I've reached the entrance to Hellesveor farm and hamlet. The slurry smell is breath-taking - the poor farmer lost stock during calving a couple of years ago to a virus that most likely came from dog poo. Our Ella was not to blame but her old running circuit has had to be shortened. Now I look for the rhythm that will see me continue gently upwards to Little Trevalgan.

Little Trevalgan in the far distance - more on the mechanical hedger in a while ...


I can begin to see the hill that carries that name up on the horizon in the distance. In 1964, the St Ives artist, Peter Lanyon, aged 46, crashed into that hillside in a gliding accident and died later in a Taunton hospital. He had taken up gliding five years earlier in order to "get a more complete knowledge of the landscape". His movement through abstract expressionism, and particular absorption in the Cornish landscape, made him one of the most important talents in post-war Britain.



The mechanical hedger is responsible for my breath being taken away a second time - this time
by the sweetness of the fragrance from fresh-cut wood. The steepness of this hill is a constant reminder of the importance of breath control for a runner.

Little Trevalgan - looking down the other side of the hill towards the Atlantic sea


I've reached the summit. There's been, as always, a determined effort to reach the top of the hill. I've been so absorbed in the effort, I've forgotten to take any more pictures! The last five minutes of running has the steepest gradients in the training exercise. This view from the summit, with its glimpse of the sea again, is magnificent. And now there is the delight of turning around and running downhill. Just a moment of mental pause to reflect on the fact that when I'm fitter I do this circuit three times: 36 minutes; 37 minutes; 38 minutes - a total continuous running time of 1 hour 51 minutes.

Tomorrow, I'll take you back down.

Correction - made on Monday 4 December:

Just by chance, I was reading David Whittaker's book 'W.S. Graham & Cornwall' this morning and came across the fact that Peter Lanyon's tragic gliding accident did not happen at Little Trevalgan - although there is a memorial plaque there - but at Dunkeswell aerodrome in Devon. Surviving the accident he was confined to bed in the Taunton hospital with a cracked vertebra and died, without warning, four days later from a blood clot. Apologies for the error.