Yesterday I made a journey. Abuela helped me pack. Taking a very sandy Sand Cake made from a recipe card given to me by Kate Murdoch https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-going-1 felt very important. I would have liked to pack one of my sand flans, but they are too delicate for such a journey and I focused instead on a group of objects, which I hoped would please Marion Michell https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/sleep-drunk-i-dance who I would meet for the first time, having exchanged so much online in terms of our work and our lives.
Among them were a cake slice and tongs (belonging to Abuela), which featured in my first residency in which Barcelona in a Bag was born. I have never shown them since or used them in my online work. They are almost too precious, but this is why they travelled with me, safely tucked in a vintage globetrotter suitcase – which itself appeared in my life to take this journey (or so it appears to me!) I thought of Marion’s recent photographs of her hands and the difficulty with hands not feeling like they were her’s due to some side effects of medications. Abuela’s hands were riddled with rheumatism and quite bent, I now recall. I wonder if she too at times looked down on her hands and did not recognise what she saw. I wanted Marion to feel the tongs and the cake slice and in this way to make contact with Abuela.
Abuela saw me off onto my bus and as I headed to London I plugged into the flamenco guitar music that has been haunting and connecting me to Lorca the songwriter, to the past, and to my roots. It seems that my immersion in my project has often included a need to live inside a soundscape which enfolds and transports me enabling me to approach with sideways glances the less approachable aspects of the work at hand. I know that I am gradually working my way around to reading my father’s plays. Post memory work is after all often related to trauma and I must find many ways around it’s themes and realities.
And so in a sense I travelled in ‘rôle’ feeling very much like a figure from the past, viewing London as I felt my father might – a very young man arriving in a new country, still energetic and hopeful – not the spent and resigned figure of his later years. My journey took an unexpected turn due to weekend service changes and I found myself on a platform at Blackfriars – my father, Abuelo and Abuela would have loved this! I thought, and could’t help wishing that I had packed some rice to sprinkle on the platform in honour of Abuelas rice making at Portbou on their flight from Spain 75 years before. They would have marvelled at the view of Tower Bridge and the sense of ‘progress’ such architectural and engineering feats appear to represent. I wished for Marion to share the view and for my mother also, knowing that they both for different reasons would find getting to such a vantage point a challenge.
Coach, tube, train and bus sped me to Marion – and eventually a tall dark figure opened the door to me. A twinkle of recognition mingled with surprise shot between us I think. A knowing and yet not knowing – we both were and weren’t what the other expected.
How quickly this sense of ‘not being’ became a being! Translating from virtual (and some postal) communication, the actual soon caught up and our conversation – about four hours when we had planned for two – was that of intimates, of those who have truly known one another, as indeed we have through the nature of our work.
As Elena Thomas https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/threads observed on her visit, you have to feel Marion’s work and hold it in your hands, rest it in your lap – sense it’s weight and scale, know the textures and hues. It’s spectacular! Crocheted mutations multiplied on the carpet as we knelt and delved into boxes, unwrapping the baby sized garments with impossible configurations of arm and limb holes, asymmetrical sleeves and legs – curious mirror images – two top halves and two bottom halves where top and bottom ‘should’ be. A box of works about Marion’s father were lingered over, threads dangling and trailing. So much left unsaid.
The objects I had brought included my own vintage copy of the Miss Moppet story – I hoped Marion would appreciate the illustrations of Miss Moppet with head in a dish cloth – face covered, perhaps in the manner of her covering faces in the photographs she works from and sews into. The adult Marion handling the very same book the child Sonia poured over so many years before.
And thus we weaved, back and forth and across time, our history’s entwining from mid morning to early afternoon, until it was time to make my journey in reverse – bus, train, tube, coach. We parted as old friends with a brief hug and a see you soon! At that parting shot I had to step back over the threshold and check. Er…I hope that is okay Marion, may I come again? Please! was the hearty reply – and I stepped out onto the now familiar street in which Marion lives, clutching the well worn globetrotter in my hand, and hopped onto the number 12 bus.
My final memory for this blog, though I feel there will be many others to emerge over time, is of Marion bravely grappling with the sand cake – good for dunking! she observed tactfully. The gluten free flour had certainly added to the dry and sandy texture which seemed so symbolic for this meeting as Marion has been ‘accompanying’ me to the studios on many a sand flan making day. We are not sister blogs for nothing Marion! Happy dunking!