My time at uni passed all too quickly. Before I knew it, I was already in the second year of the degree. In the first year, I had a lovely wall space, where I could display my work. It was plastered in all those drawings I had started earlier in the year. Some of them were worked up into larger paintings and, in the second year, I acquired a couple of huge canvases from the woodworking shop, which cost me £14 altogether. I made a massive collage onto one of them, which was quite successful, I thought. It took me so long to make this one work, that I was advised to go smaller, which I did, and became much more productive. I used to work really hard all the time, even throughout the summer holiday, I would be machining away in the fibre workshop, making felt pieces from offcuts of rayon.
One of my felt squares was exhibited in a second-year student exhibition, “This is Our Pretty Mess”, in Bankley Studios, Levenshulme in Manchester. It was there that I received a ‘phone call, whilst helping to put up the show with several other students on the course. The call was from the husband of a friend, Linda Dhamikka, a Buddhist, working mainly in Zambia as a Primary Health Care worker, who had set up a clinic several years ago to treat the sick from the villages surrounding the Tithandezane clinic, near Lusaka. She had contracted malaria some time ago and over the weekend prior to the call, she had suffered a fatal asthma attack.
The show went ahead and the private view was well-attended by students and their relatives, and we took turns to invigilate during the following week. Shortly after this, I was asked if I wanted to attend a memorial service in Leicester for Linda, which I did and travelled to the Buddhist Centre with some of Linda’s friends and her husband. The service was similar to what I had expected, as I had attended her wedding years before in Manchester, a part Buddhist and part Quaker ceremony. The memorial service was very interesting and revealing about her life. She seemed to have been quite a rebel, even though, as a partly ordained Buddhist minister, she had refused to shave her head, as the sun in Zambia was too hot! Linda was also one of the emergency aid workers who supported and helped the Tsunami victims. She used to spend only two or three months of the year at home in Eccles, Greater Manchester, and the remainder in Zambia. For some time, I had been collecting medication and dressings for her to take with her on her trips and had supported the work in other ways too. It was a very sad occasion and I still miss her, as do all of her friends..
Meanwhile, Bob had started his Masters degree and there was no stopping him! He was often covered from top to toe in oil paint. His canvases were also very large and he would often be in the wood workshop constructing them. After a year of painting, he was asked to devise an exhibition for assessment, and for some reason, he chose to display drawings in a small room, which didn’t impress the tutors, as the work was crowded together, so he decided to do another show in the summer of his paintings, and exhibited them in the Borland Gallery, in the Irwell Vally Campus. This was a much better idea, and together, we curated the show and organized a preview, with drinks and snacks.. Booklets were also printed, which were given out to the visitors, This was to be Bob’s first real show.
Even though he was working hard and seemed well to others, he was still having episodes of depression which he couldn’t shake off for days. The first failed show of drawings had started one of these spells off, but he had picked himself up again to everyone’s amazement.
Below is one of the heater paintings in the exhibition. On the left, Bob and I in 2007.