Sunday, 16 August 2009

Close encounters

I drove over to Norfolk to see Chris Riddell. Chris is married to a farmer's daughter, Jo Riddell ( a very talented artist in her own right) and they have a cottage near Jo's parents house. We used to live just down the road when we first moved out of London in 1993, renting a tied cottage on a nearby farm.

Chris and Jo have turned this place into a beautiful retreat and just to annoy me after I told them about the many problems with my own studio, they showed me round the studio they were building out of an old outbuilding. It was fantastically light and high and spacious and was nicer than anything I am ever likely to have in Cambridge whatever happens. Not that I begrudge Chris and Jo having such a lovely studio. No. No.


We had a wander round the local fields after a very good lunch on a beautiful day. Norfolk is a great county to get your lungs going again. It is a big breath of a place with the horizon always far off and hopeful. I miss those big skies and open spaces. I think I feel smaller in Cambridge. It is like hill walking: an open view is a heart-lifting thing. A city street is - well, it's pedestrian.

Chris and I have the capacity to talk and talk and talk. I need to do this and will bond with anyone who thinks it isn't weird. I can talk for hours and hours without ever needing to do anything else. Chris is the same. I'm not sure that our conversations aren't often parallel in a slightly autistic way, in that we are very different in our temperaments and outlooks. Chris has a much more unshakable belief in the decisions he makes than I do. He has a very uncluttered view of what he is doing. It is one of the many reasons he is so successful, I'm sure.

We sat so long in the low sunshine that when Chris got up he had been sun burnt on one side of his face like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters.

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