Many years ago I was up at
The old man was a friendly thing and we sat on a bench consuming our vinegar-drenched chip muffins. He lived locally and went to the chip shop as a treat at weekends. He was missing his wife who had died recently. She had done everything for him, he told me, had looked after him attentively.
I felt sorry for him and he told his wife had met him through feeling sorry for him. After his first wife died he did not look after himself, dressed in a threadbare way, wore every pair of underpants and socks he owned as he did not know to operate the washing machine. One evening he was walking home from a church service and a woman (his future wife) noticed his trousers were so high his socks were showing. Even though they were strangers her first words to him were “Can I walk you home?” I have tried to capture this moment in this painting.
That was over thirty years ago and they had got together and married. Short trousers had got him a wife. That’s a good deal.
That conversation on that bench spawned this
painting. I have not shown the man’s socks sticking out from the bottom of his
trousers. He told me the name of the road they had met on but I cannot remember
it. It had the word “white” in it. Milk is white so I have called it
I would have put grey or black gloves on the man but the old man suspected the woman might be a nagger: as she walked him home she told him almost immediately blue gloves “didn’t match anything.” The old man told me, “Whatever you do never marry a nagger.” This is the second time I have heard this in 45 years.
These small canvases can be finished quickly. I drafted out this painting about 18 months ago and it’s sat by my television all that time. Every time I went to turn the television on/off I glimpsed the canvas and thought, “must finish one day.” I’m not keen on that jaundiced sky.