Meeting Beryl

It was while living in London that my grandfather met Beryl, my grandmother. They met at a cafe where she was a waitress and he was a dishwasher, and soon fell in love. Soon after they wed and had a daughter (Katina, my mother). Beryl went on to become an exceptional teacher, where her hard work and passion would see her turn around a failing school and rise to the position of head in just 6 years. She was a great believer in my grandfather’s work and an admirer of his principles and integrity, and so she insisted on supporting him as an artist. He was to paint, and she wouldn't allow him to do anything that compromised the finite time with which he had to express himself through his work. However, while Grandma was happy in her role as the sole breadwinner, she strongly believed his work should be reaching a wider audience, and consequently wanted nothing more than for him to gain some recognition. Her efforts to promote his work led to numerous home visits from renowned gallerists and curators- but my grandfather’s neurosis left him feeling unable to step beyond his comfort zone. He loved painting. He lived for it. But he painted only for himself- because he had to- and he cared little for attention or validation.

For many years they were blissfully married. However, my grandmother had had a troubled and turbulent upbringing, and this proved a conduit to the onset of mental illness. After 15 years of marriage she was diagnosed as bipolar, and and as time passed her condition deteriorated. It was during this downward spiral that my grandfather was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, when Bryan Robertson- who had introduced to the world many of the artists my grandfather most admired- sent him a handwritten letter inviting him to exhibit at the Warwick Arts Trust. Had this happened at any other time in his life, my grandfather would have grabbed this chance, but it coincided with the time when Grandma’s condition was facing a particularly sharp decline, and so with much sadness he turned the offer down. To do otherwise was not even a consideration. Beryl had been there for him- supporting him- and so there was no question that he would be there for her too when she needed him most. Tragically, my grandmother’s condition did not improve, and after suffering for 20 years she took her own life on April 23rd 1997.