1990: Downland Sketchbook : Didcot,Oxfordshire


Title: Harvested field in long shadow 29.7.90

Every picture tells a story and this small sketchbook from July 1990 tells more than most. In December 1989 I finally crashed (literally) out of London. I had been freelancing as an illustrator( mostly listening to Charley Patton vinyl) and although had Dalston show had lost studio.

Then I lost my community housing as new family moved in and my friend Kevin Evans went back to Leeds. Left on my own I bought a guitar and wrote songs and waited for the inevitable. In November 1989 my long term on/off partner decided to get pregnant and marry someone else (to my ultimate great relief) and my best friends all got married.

I had nothing but a short term but lucrative appointment in an animation company to look back on. London was over…..I bought a Harmony guitar and marshall amp with the last bit of my freelance money.

It happened to be the end of the decade and I was 31. I finally left London on December 3rd a Sunday in my dad’s building truck all the paintings stacked up on the back and my vinyl in cases. Like the Beverley Hill Billies I was going back to the country 🙂 Almost…

In December I applied for a job at the Poetry Library on the South Bank and got it. Good pay for those days but working the shit shift from Friday Evening to Sunday evening. I did it for six months then cracked when not offered a better contract. Met a lot of lovely well employed poetry people like Stephen Smith, Mary Enright and Maura Dooley but it was just an interlude…

July 1990 resigned – on the dole again for first time since early 1980s….trying to be positive walked out into the fields every day and started this little sketchbook. The next phase was just starting…

I picked up an evening class teaching creative writing at Oxford College of Further Education. My first class included Giles Goodland and Bridget Kursheed. I was untrained and struggled with the course and when the Iraq crisis in January 1991 affected course numbers for both illustration and creative writing and the dole people helpfully took away all my benefits I was forced to quit. I remained unemployed (even my father who had given me casual labour struggled to make ends meet through 1991-2 as the recession bit) until 1993 when I moved back to London under a Spanish woman’s spell.

I had also started sending out poems inspired by Maura Dooley’s encouragement.

This little sketchbook contains both landscapes and first drafts of poems. It also contains a first reference to A.E.Coppard so this when I first thought there might be a connection 25 years ago!


Finally a A4 sketch of the same landscape from July 1989 before the storm came…



Author: admin


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.