I have only myself to blame, which makes the loss of the pictures even more galling. They are all gone: the limited edition William Conor print Sour Apple which I bought from the Linenhall Library in Belfast because it reminded me of my sister when she was a child.
Half a dozen hand-coloured prints from Mychael Barratt, bought at a rate of one a year from Liberty of London. My favorite was titled It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings.
A print of three burlesque ladies in colourful corsets I bought in Sydney, because the women –a blonde, a redhead and a brunette–reminded me of me and my schoolfriends Heather and Niki–even though Heather and Niki aren’t fat, and none of us dance, or wear garters.
These were just a few of more than seventy framed pictures I took down from the walls of my house by the bay when I needed to get it redecorated and depersonalized, ready to rent. That was three years ago. At the time, my helpful building contractor said ‘Throw the pictures into the basement of the house we are working on up the road. It is clean and dry and the pictures will be safe there until you have a place to put them.’ Neither he nor I knew it would be nearly three years before I’d show up again in Shady Side. By then, the house would have been sold, the basement cleared, and my pictures inadvertently thrown on a skip. This is the kind of shit that does happen.
The mistake was discovered only last week and since then I have been mourning the loss of the 6 wooden combs painted like Chinese ladies that I bought in Hong Kong, mounted on red velvet, and had framed by my favorite print shop in London’s Crouch End. The deeply politically incorrect framed set of cocktail stirrers in the shape of ageing women with drooping breasts. Deborah Toner’s linen runner stitched with outlines of Belfast’s most iconic buildings.
In financial terms, none of these momentoes was worth very much in the first place, and some I can probably one day replace. The cost of glass and frame was, in most cases, the major expense, and the unplanned clear-out does provide new opportunity for a fresh collecting spree. Plus, the purge will save my daughter the trouble a decade or two from now. But still, but still, but still…
Fortunately, the items of most sentimental value–a Paul Crook painting of my childhood home, commissioned by my sister after my father died; my father’s own pastels of Northern Irish landscapes; and a pair of Maryland tobacco barns painted in exuberant purple and yellow–are safely stowed in my friend Judy’s guest bedroom closet. Peggy has three yellow and red nudes, a gift from my friend Susan, reclining behind the desk in her own spare bedroom. All is not lost. These will be coming soon to a wall near me.