"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A portrait from the past

Yesterday was a day with Paul, his brother Nathan and Elder and Younger Daughter and today being Mother's Day, Younger Daughter had had a portrait of me enlarged onto canvas for my present.
There is a story behind this picture.
When I first went to college in Hull, back in 1967, I met up in the first few days with the friends that I would go through college with and one of these was a girl who was a little older than the rest of us, although to us 18 and 19 year olds, at 24 she seemed the height of maturity and sophistication. Her name was Ilona, known to everyone as Noni and she had worked at the Council of Europe before deciding to turn her sights to teaching.
Noni's mother lived in a cottage somewhere near Wellingborough, as I recall, her father having disappeared to the depths of Africa many years previously, allegedly to shoot big game, leaving Noni and her brother and sister to be brought up by their mother. 
The other unusual thing about Noni was that, in a time when no students had cars, she did; it was an ancient Austin 10 but to us, it was a valuable means of travel. Admittedly, it frequently ground to a halt but Noni had a fail-safe solution to that, which was to get tools out of the boot, spread them on the road behind the car and then stand there looking helpless in the hope that a knight of the road would pull up and solve the problem. As I say, it never failed.
However, back to the picture. On one of the first weekends at college, a couple of us were invited to go home with Noni and we did. The main thing I remember was the the cottage, even in October, was bone-bitingly, chillingly cold, but Noni's mother made us very welcome and, as she was an amateur painter, she offered to do our portraits. I think I was the only one who took her up on her offer (vain even in those days!) and the result you can see above.
Looking at it now - I haven't even thought about it for years - I am reminded of a group of friends on the brink of a new career, broadening horizons (for those days, anyway) and the promise of a life ahead of us which would meet all our hopes and expectations.
I doubt if any of us considered that we might, at times, have to take the scenic route!


Yorkshire Pudding said...

A lovely souvenir of your youth but how quickly the years pass... Clearly your cultural advancement and sheer sophistication are down to the years you spent in Hull. Who needs Venice, Paris or St Petersburg when you could have Hull!

Shooting Parrots said...

What a great memory to have - so much better than a photograph. My old art teacher sketched a charcoal drawing of me when I was eleven. My nana used to have it pinned on the wall, but I've no idea where it is now. I wish I did.

Cro Magnon said...

Are you sure she was an 'amateur' painter? It looks like she knew her way around a paint brush; very nice picture.

Jennyta said...

I'm relying on memory but I think she was an amateur, Cro.

ZACL said...

I could not pass this picture by. It is magnetically beautiful, tender work. Good for you for taking up the offer to be painted by such a talented artist. It is a fabulous reminder of so many things in your life, as can be seen by what you write.

Jennyta said...

Indeed it is, ZACL


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