Play me I’m yours – art therapy for the mentally troubled

Monday 22 August 1664

A fairly tedious entry from Pepys about his numerous business dealings.

This evening we spent watching a documentary film about the history aspect of the South Downs of England. I had forgotten that the famous White Cliffs of Dover were once under the sea. That’s the only way that chalk can be formed ha ha. I was impressed by the varieties of flora and fauna including rare orchids that are only able to survive in this particular environment and with this particular soil type. BBC4 is now what BBC2 used to be years ago before it started really going down market or as the BBC would say ‘popularised’.

Prior to that we had spent some time cleaning out the gutters particularly dealing with accumulations of moss  that were behind the conservatory. This came about because we were visited by a ‘character’ shall we say who offered to clean and repair our gutters for £550. That was an incentive for us to do it ourselves; improvisation was the name of the game. I climbed up on a ladder  and used my very powerful jet washer to push the moss and gunge towards the other end of the gutter where my wife was able to  collect it and throw it away.

Prior to that, I visited the customer who I mentioned before who turned out to be a jovial man, amicably separated from his wife who was renovating a very spacious bungalow for his daughter. I always like to meet people before doing any type of business deal although in theory it can be done on the telephone.   We agreed a price and I said we would start as soon as possible. To the customer, their gardens look absolutely dreadful. I suppose our job is a little bit like a surgeon in an accident and emergency department who takes on someone who has been in a road accident. You know exactly what you have to do and you just get on with it. Specialising in garden clearance does not sound a very romantic job but it is quite challenging knowing what to take, what to leave, what the customer wants versus what they think they want, trying to please everybody, figuring out how much waste is involved  and how many trips to the recycle it will take.

The main business of day was that I drove with my wife and a bonnet full of the sound of crickets to the Volvo garage in Bristol. By ‘crickets’ I refer to the noise made by a tension device in the engine that was about to give up the ghost. We made it without incident and I spent some time talking to my very jovial salesperson, Myles, who has held the good reputation of the Volvo outlet in his hands for a couple of years now.

He’s always chatty and genuinely interested in what I’ve been up to, and this feeling is reciprocated. They have two new polish mechanics now, one of whom is called Marin, who had carefully taken my car on a test drive to check that all was in order. He is thought of very highly due to his hard work. This does rather reinforce my idea of Polish people as hard-working and honest. incidentally, I very much approve of the practice of the service person going through what has been done on the car, when and why, a bit like a judge summing up a case. This not only involves closure but minimises possible complaints.

In general, car main dealers have a reputation for charging rather high hourly rates. Insofar as this is accurate I don’t mind paying some extra because they have all the spares you need and they have dedicated plug-in software for Volvo cars as opposed to the generic software used by most service stations.

Off to Bristol City Centre which for the most part resembles a roadworks, to kill the hours waiting for the car to be done, which was not difficult because we were due to meet my sister and spend some catch up time with her. Whilst on the way, I had previously read in the paper about the campaign to put pianos in public places so people could play them if they wanted to. Anything that involves the creative talents of the public has my approval. It was difficult to go for many metres without finding a piano, normally with someone playing it at the time and I enclose first off some examples of this.

piano number one, imaginatively painted, Donald Duck style.
a Korean person is playing this piano, in the vicinity of the Western Art Gallery
a young man playing this next to the tourist bureau
I can’t remember where he was but he could play quite well
one of the delights of Bristol is that it is large enough to support very minority tastes for ethnic minorities
this is a a Argentinianrestaurant with just that extra reach into the soul
quite an unusual and profound poem stencilled on a wall
Quite an ambitious mural. I am glad Bristol Council approves of such thing

We wandered in to the Royal West of England Academy to find the normal restaurant closed, to be shortly open under another name.  It is a diminutive size restaurant with the space for 20 covers at a maximum but this did not deter the enthusiastic new owner from sharing with us all sorts of  plans for the future. She had spent time in two cities in France and felt that her French was deteriorating, so I suggested that once a month they had a French morning which would not cost anything, but would stick in the mind of potential customers.  All she had to do was to put a French flag on one of the tables and people could congregate about it. She said that she knew many French speaking English people in Bristol.

My wife, my sister and myself lunched at Za Za overlooking the waterfront in Bristol, which is reputed to be the largest restaurant in Europe. I think it seats over 1000 people. During school holidays it is very lively indeed and probably not the place for an intimate first date. However, if you want food from six continents on an all-you-can-eat basis this is the place to be. For lunch you pay £8.95 a head all-you-can-eat. The deal lasts for two hours so it is a timed eating ticket though I’m not sure how they enforce it. This is to make sure you don’t spend the whole day eating.  My sister and I are not particularly close but when we meet up we always enjoy a catch up, hearing what has happened to various friends and relations.

We chanced into the local  art gallery and museum and found a fascinating temporary exhibition by  artists marginalised by their mental health conditions and also because they just wanted to make a particular personal statement from outside the box. I took more photographs than any decent person can absorb so I have selected a few below.

see below

“On the act” is the term given to prisoners who are on suicide watch. Supposedly, this reduces the opportunities to self harm, but as it often involves removing their personal possessions and a considerable stigma, it often worsens the mental health of the subject. Rates of self harm in prison have risen 40% in two years.
I switched onto art while serving a prison sentence where it became my catharsis and a way of documenting my experiences. I strongly believe in the therapeutic effects of creativity – I paint because I need to.
Arthur Mactaggert (artist)

this young man uses drinking straws which he cut into pieces
speaks for itself
this is a doll owned by the artist who took it to pieces and put it together again in a modified way. She says this is largely about the dubious delights of borderline personality disorder. She says of herself, sometimes you can’t see what is wrong with somebody
the whole doll reconstituted after having been dismembered
speaks for itself
what a nuclear war would be like
these still pictures from a video portraying the artists who are showing. I’m very impressed by their unpretentious and self-effacing description of what they do
that comment could apply to many of us
3D bronzes
that could apply to all the artists in this exhibition

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