Taking Stock

'Sunset Bardsey' by Tom Tomos
We’ve spent two days this week cataloguing Tom’s paintings which were rather haphazardly stored when we moved here three years ago. It’s been a joy to see old favourites, discover forgotten gems and to change the mood of our living rooms with different works. Not everyone has the chance to get a private viewing of a major retrospective of an artist’s work – nearly a hundred paintings - but my pride in Tom’s achievement has been tinged with frustration that he isn’t receiving wider recognition. He’s not alone, of course, Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC programme about David Bomberg, whose critical stock rose only after his death from malnutrition, was a powerful reminder of how cruel the creative Fates can be. 

Drinking my tea this morning, I ruefully listened to Radio Four’s Today programme giving author David Nicholls over four minutes of airtime to promote his new book, Us, and to tell listeners how pleased he was that his comedy about marriage and family had been long-listed for the Booker prize. I subsequently tweeted Today telling them I’d be happy to do a soft interview talking about my novels which are also about relationships and marriage, but they have yet to take me up on my offer, so I can only assume that when male authors tackle these subjects they automatically become newsworthy. I’m sure David Nicholls is a good author - don’t all those sales prove it? - yet I can’t help but think that given the same amount of promotion, I could be a 'good' author too. As things stand, my ‘discoverability’ as an author, is mainly due to whatever I can do on social media – short of being really annoying – and on special deals on Amazon (or, last weekend, Kobo). The lower the price, the more willing readers are to take a punt, but it really did make me wonder, standing in the queue for a coffee in the Turner Contemporary café last week about what’s really of value to people when I noticed that the price of a single cupcake there, was higher than any of my ebooks.

Grumbles about relative values apart, driving to the supermarket a couple of nights ago, Tom and I were reflecting on what we’ve achieved between us since moving to Wales nearly nine years ago; paintings sold, novels published, academic achievements etc. Our quiet self-congratulations nearly became our last words as, suddenly, as an impatient van-driver, fed up with waiting behind a bus, sped head-on towards leaving us, so I thought, with nowhere to go but A&E. I still don’t know how we escaped, although Tom’s excellent driving skills had a lot to do with it, but, gosh, I’m grateful to be here. Being alive seemed a good reason to crack open our latest foraging recipe; Hedgerow Fizz made with elderberries, blackberries and a few rosehips. Sometimes you have to take stock and realise how lucky you are. Cheers!



Clare Chase said…
The incident with the van driver sounds terrifying – so glad you’re both OK. I heard the David Nicholls piece too… My thoughts were not dissimilar to yours!
Chanpreet said…
I think it's wonderful you and Tom, have accomplished so much. It is unfortunate most people don't receive the boost they need until after they are gone, however Chris, your books have touched many while you're still here and I'm sure who ever has a painting of Tom's enjoys it and appreciate him and his talent too. I love that you almost always share one of his paintings with us. It makes me wish you were closer by so I could purchase one or two.

It's funny how near death experiences bring things into perspective. I also wish people realized they don't have spare body parts lying around at home, so it's better to be a safe driver.
Sally Townsend said…
Counting ones blessings is so important but it's funny how a 'close brush' highlights it even more clearly.
So glad you escaped the wreck on the road. Nothing turns one's knees to water more quickly than a "near miss." As you say, much to be grateful for! xoxox
Chris Stovell said…
I kept seeing a white van coming towards me every time I shut my eyes for ages afterwards, Clare - and I feel quite nervous in the car. Fortunately having a good old shout at Today cheered me up a bit. Clearly Mr Nicholls does a far more newsworthy version of marriage and relationships than us. Grrr!

Thank you, Chanpreet, for your support as always. I'm fine really, just get a bit irritated (and I hide it so well!) by the blatant ads on what purports to be a news programme!

The image of those 'spare body parts'is chilling. I really thought my number was up for a split-second and felt very sad for everything I thought I was going to miss.

It certainly did, Sally. It seems we've both doing some thinking about the future lately. I prefer the more meditative kind than the shock and awe variety though!

Indeed, Canadian Chickadee - time to celebrate my 'new' life! xx
Irish Eyes said…
I can well understand your frustration; you are a hugely talented author and it is totally understandable. I agree with Chanpreet regarding Tom's paintings, that could be me swimming over to take a closer look ;-) one of these days. Loved the previous blog too regarding hols. Am just back from Kerry and will be putting up my thoughts on our sojourn.
BIG relief that you weren't wiped out; we had a near miss just outside Dingle ourselves, puts everything into perspective! BIG TIME!!!!!
Frances said…
Jeepers Chris! What a terrifying close call. Bravo to Tom for his quick response.

Bravo to both of you for so, so many accomplishments. You all are very multi-talented and really do have many ways to expressing your uniqueness.

I count myself very fortunate to know you.

(I've always thought art history a bit random in its coronations, and when I am in places like The Metropolitan Museum of Art am drawn to art by unknown artists. And as for books, well stories have been told and written for a long, long time, and let's hope that they will continue to be told and written for a long, long time.)

Flowerpot said…
You've both achieved so much you should be very proud - very glad Tom's such a good driver though. Take care and enjoy the fizz x
Chris Stovell said…
Dear I.E. I'm very glad you didn't get wiped out in Dingle, I know there are views there 'to die for' but I'd much rather you didn't. In the meantime, I'll warm some towels and get ready to greet you should you arrive at the bottom of the garden having swum across that pesky stretch of water between us! X

Yes indeed, Frances, I really don't know how Tom got us out of it, but we'e still here. Coronations is a very good word for it. I've just felt particularly exasperated recently by the roll of the dice, however as Tom reminded me when I was moaning about never going to the ball, I am actually at the ball so ought to concise er myself very fortunate. Thank you for your generous comments.

Thank you, Sue. Yes, we will enjoy the fizz and celebrate the good things... And I'll stop being a bit grumpy!

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