Unlike this morning where the sun is lighting my whole world under a wide blue sky, yesterday (Sunday 17th November 2019) was bleak and miserable. I had spent the night tossing and turning, worrying about appearing on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s “Great Outdoors” programme with Christopher South, and arose from my bed rather worse for lack of sleep. However, a couple of rounds of toast with peanut butter, two mugs of tea and an apple put me in better spirits.
With “butterflies” in the normal regions, I collected up my paperwork (homework) because I was to be interviewed by Christopher about the Iceni Botanical Artists (IBA) group, of which I am a member. I had spent the previous few days reading about the group because I am a fairly new member (November 2017). Fortunately, our Chairperson, Isobel Bartholomew, emailed me a run-down which was must useful.
I was determined not to be late (I was told to report at 9.45am), so set off from Comberton at 9.00am. As I do not like towns and cities, I ventured down the overcast A428 and onto the A14-40mph drive all the way to the Milton interchange. The traffic was so sparse that I sailed through and arrived at 9.15am, just as a car drove up to the building with two people in it. The man I immediately recognised as Christopher (and his beautiful corgi dog, Foxy), but not knowing who the lady was—it turned out to be his lovely wife, Janet. In a later conversation she revealed that she had done a botanical art course but sadly lacked the patience to continue with it. Her tutor had been Georita Harriott, a great teacher with whom I learned all about botanical illustration and gilding with illuminated lettering—very small world!
Christopher very kindly made me a cup of coffee and I was asked to sit on a bench seat until needed. The live stream of the radio channel was loud and clear throughout the building, but the studios themselves were nice airy rooms with lots of windows looking out onto the car park! I drank my coffee then, before the programme, presented Christopher with a special calendar I had made for him. When he gasped “Bloody Hell!”, I thought he didn’t like it, but the phrase was in admiration (as well as from his colleagues present)—thank goodness.
Unfortunately, for me, presenting the calendar to Chris seemed to change the tone of the interview. To make me feel really at ease, Christopher introduced me as a “69 year-old Boring Old Woman”. “Different” I thought, but could instantly see where he was going—making the point that lots of people seem dull and boring going about their daily work and lives, but upon a bit of digging lots of us lead very interesting and full lives. He also mentioned that I was a “genius” and that, in a new word to me, my work was brilliant to the point of “Hyper-realism” (I suppose this could be an exact expression of how I wish to portray nature). I suddenly felt very privileged at being in the studio and, with his leads, a lot of my life story seemed to pour out. Chris certainly knows how to “winkle”!
As we neared the end of the hour (which incidentally went so fast it felt like 10 minutes!), Chris suddenly changed tack from all about me to the Iceni Botanical Artists, by which time I had completely forgotten about my reason for being there. It was then very difficult to recollect what I wanted to say about the lovely group. My papers were strewn all over the place and I could not find my typed sheet of information about the IBA. I did manage to scrape a few things from my memory, and at the last minute found the correct piece of paper, but even then Chris kept changing the tac and I lost my place (he does it “on purpose”!). And when he asked me what the website address was I completely froze and blabbed out: “Just type in Iceni Botanical Artists and it will come up!”—shameful!
Finally, he said “Tell listeners from where they can obtain this lovely calendar”. I said that I had made it specially for him as it was a duplicate of my very first calendar produced in 2006…and then it was time for the news and we had to stop talking. But what a wonderful experience—thank you Mr South for a day in my life I shall remember always. (Chris asked me to sign the calendar so I wrote: “To Chris, love from the Boring Old Woman”.)
This year the Calendar picture-theme includes some of my nature pictures as well as line art illustrations from a new series of books co-authored by Dr Sylvia Haslam and myself under the umbrella title of “River Friend”. The two published books (£7.50 each, September 2019) are available to purchase from our website: RIVER FRIEND SERIES, or from Amazon (trade: IngramSpark platform).