Monday 16 September 2019

'And I'm feeling to be bohemian like you'

An explosion of life and colour
An explosion of life and colour

Do you ever wonder, what if you are totally wrong? What if the whole life you have constructed and all the things you cling to are all utterly wrong? What if you are making a massive mistake?

I do. But I push those thoughts down, because it's kind of the appalling vista. To change now, mid way through, would be like trying to do a handbrake turn with an oil tanker.

I got it last week. We were out around the country and one of the jobs I had made up to give the journey purpose was to call to an artist and maybe buy a print off him. So we headed off down through East Cork and almost into West Waterford. The forecast was so-so but, as we drove, the day got steadily more beautiful, and the landscape around me and the big sky became more and more uplifting. I hadn't been there before and the artist's partner said they'd meet us at a certain petrol station, and then she would lead us into "the middle of nowhere".

She wasn't joking about the middle of nowhere. We turned off the road to a lesser road, and then to a lesser road again, and then we zig-zagged cross country through roads that most people don't even know exist. There was the odd farm, which was understandable, but there was also the odd McMansion, standing in splendour, in the middle of nowhere, houses with double height halls and arched windows that went up the full front of the house, all kinds of architectural features that no one ever passes to admire.

At one point we came to a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and there was a little school, what looked like a lovely little school. But there didn't seem to be any house for miles around. Why did they come here, deeper into the middle of nowhere, to go to school?

I had my girls in the car and I could sense them getting tense and spooked as we went further into the middle of nowhere. If we didn't know the people we were following, you'd be wondering were they luring us up here to kill us.

What was actually at the end of our journey was not a heart of darkness but a beacon of light. The artist had old statues painted in bright colours to greet you as you drove into the compound, murals painted all over the outside of the cottage, mobiles hanging from trees, and a general air of magic. The kids were giddy with excitement. They'd never seen anything like this explosion of life and colour in the middle of nowhere.

I stood with him in the extension where he paints, looking out over the land, light pouring in. With the sun coming up early now he gets up maybe at five, meditates and then paints until lunchtime.

The cottage and the various outbuildings were full of bits and pieces stuck to walls and hanging - found items, pictures from magazines, whatever took his magpie artist fancy, and all of it slightly altered, much of it painted on. It was like he needed to improve everything by adding even more colour.

We chatted while the kids sat outside at a table painting on two little canvasses he set up for them. Then the younger one sat down with the artist's partner and discovered Fig Rolls, and the pleasure of dunking them. Five Fig Rolls in, she began babbling, while the men pottered around looking at work and finally doing a bit of business, and then it was time to head on to Dublin.

They drove us back down to the road and sent us on our way. "It's a different world," my wife said. And she was right. And it was probably the opposite to my world, where things are neat and tidy and ordered, where everything has a purpose, and where you are surrounded at all times by other people and by the edifices and things they have created.

And yet there is a thing in me that wants to be there, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by greenery and by the colourful work that the artist blurts out from his subconscious - demons and angels. And yet I know. I know that as much as the bohemians and the mad ones fascinate, and I have always flirted with them, I never had the courage to be one.

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